There are various migraine symptoms and causes and triggers which can determine the type of migraine medication needed.

What is a migraine?

Migraine is a neurological condition in which painful headaches occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light/sound. 

It is a complex genetic condition, the symptoms of which can be triggered by combination of biological and environmental factors. The triggers are unique to each individual and can be in the form of multiple things which result in a migraine attack. They are more common in females and can be managed through preventive treatment and treating migraine at the active stage.

Types of migraines

There are many types of migraine headaches, some more common than others. Most people experience a migraine without an aura, in which the pain occurs in one side of the head, and may give sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine with an aura occurs in 25% of people, in which people may experience visual problems, sensory problems and pain. 

Other types of migraine are chronic migraines which is a combination of a migraine and a tension headache. Headaches can occur due to medication overuse, or occur due to anxiety, depression and other serious health problems. Vestibular migraine is a vertigo associated migraine which affects 1% of the population. 

Migraine symptoms

A debilitating headache is the main symptom however additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, numbness or tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound. 

The migraine pain can be described as pulsating, throbbing pain, pounding like and can be severe, dull or a steady ache. They usually start off mild in symptoms and if left untreated can become moderate to severe. 

The pain is usually in the forehead on one side however can occur on both sides or even shift around. Symptoms typically last anywhere from 4 hours up to 72 hours for those who do not seek or respond to treatment. 

There are 6 stages of a migraine which exhibit different symptoms:

Warning phase: In this phase a person experiences mood changes, nausea, aches and stiffness.

Aura phase: In this phase people may experience visual disturbance (e.g. double vision), numbness, dizziness and confusion.

Acute headache phase: In this phase there is headache pain, nausea, vomiting, neck pain and sensitivity to light and sound. 

Resting phase: In this phase people experience fatigue and may benefit from some sleep. 

Postdrome phase: This phase has brain fog fatigue and may have low mood.

Causes and trigger of migraine

It has not been determined if there are definite causes of a migraine but it is believed that some abnormal brain activity affects nerve signaling and chemicals in the blood vessels. There is likely a link with family history, health conditions and trauma. A healthcare professional would recommend keeping a headache journal to pinpoint the activities carried, food consumed to help identify triggers.

Certain foods which contain alcohol or caffeinated drinks, food additives, MSG, artificial sugar and tyramine can be a trigger for migraine attacks. Other triggers include hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, excitement, poor sleep quality, bright flashing lights, excessive diets or dehydration and climate change. 

Migraine Treatments

The migraine attacks cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed. There are various treatment options which can be tried to see which one helps relieve the symptoms. Lifestyle adjustments like stress management and avoiding migraine triggers are the first step in the treatment plan. These include avoiding triggers, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.

Over the counter pain medication like NSAIDs or paracetamol can help manage the pain of a migraine attack. The preventive medication is taken everyday to help prevent a migraine and reduce the frequency of occurrence. The treatment for migraine is taken as soon as the attack begins to manage symptoms and keep it from becoming severe. These would include NSAIDs, triptans and anti-nausea medicines. 

Consult a doctor

Individuals who experience severe frequent headaches should visit a doctor to receive accurate diagnosis. If a diagnosis is made, and symptoms seem to worsen such as fever, stiff neck, loss of balance, a medical professional should be consulted. 

With any frequent or recurrent headaches or migraines which interfere with daily life activities, it is best to consult a doctor for a treatment plan.

Consult a doctor


About migraine – Migraine Australia

Managing migraine – Migraine Australia