Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. A typical migraine attack produces some or all of these signs and symptoms:
• Moderate to severe pain, which may be confined to one side of the head or may affect both sides
• Head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality
• Pain that worsens with physical activity
• Pain that interferes with your regular activities
• Nausea with or without vomiting
• Sensitivity to light and sound
When untreated, a migraine typically lasts from four to 72 hours, but the frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person. You may have migraines several times a month or much less frequently.
Not all migraines are the same. Most people experience migraines without auras, which were previously called common migraines. Some people have migraines with auras, which were previously called classic migraines. Auras can include changes to your vision, such as seeing flashes of light, and feeling pins and needles in an arm or leg.
Whether or not you have auras, you may have one or more sensations of premonition (prodrome) several hours or a day or so before your headache actually strikes, including:
• Feelings of elation or intense energy
• Cravings for sweets
• Irritability or depression
When to see a doctor
Migraines are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you experience signs and symptoms of migraine, keep a record of your attacks and how you treated them. Then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your headaches and decide on a treatment plan.
Even if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different.
See your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you have any of the following signs and symptoms, which may indicate other, more serious medical problems:
• An abrupt, severe headache like a thunderclap
• Headache with fever, stiff neck, rash, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness or trouble speaking
• Headache after a head injury, especially if the headache gets worse
• A chronic headache that is worse after coughing, exertion, straining or a sudden movement
• New headache pain if you're older than 50