The characteristic symptom of a migraine is the excruciating headache that develops at one side of the head or at the front. The pain is typically described as intense throbbing sensation that becomes worse during movement and prevents the individual from performing normal activities. In some circumstances, the pain can occur on both sides of the head and even affect the neck or face.
What are the other symptoms?
In most cases, other symptoms can occur during a migraine attack such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light and sound. Some have other symptoms such as poor concentration, sweating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and feeling hot or cold.
Not all can experience these symptoms once they have a migraine and some experience them without a headache. The symptoms usually last between 4 hours up to 3 days, but the individual might feel very tired for up to a week after.
What are the symptoms of aura?
In some individuals, migraines have momentary warning symptoms called as aura before a migraine such as:
- Visual problems such as flashing lights, blind spots or zigzag patterns
- Feeling dizzy or out of balance
- Tingling sensation or numbness that typically starts in one hand and moves up the arm before affecting the face, tongue and lips
- Difficulty speaking
- Loss of consciousness (uncommon)
These symptoms usually develop over 5 minutes and last for up an hour. Some can experience an aura followed by a mild headache or no headache at all.
When to seek further care
It is recommended to consult a doctor if the individual experiences frequent or severe symptoms that could not be managed with over-the-counter pain medications such as paracetamol.
If the following are present, it is vital to call for emergency assistance or bring the individual to the nearest emergency department:
- There is abrupt intense headache that might be due to a blinding pain unlike anything that the individual experienced before
- Weakening or paralysis in one or both arms as well as on one side of the face
- Garbled or slurred speech
- The headache is accompanied by high temperature or fever, mental confusion, stiff neck, double vision, seizure and rashes
It is important to note that these symptoms might indicate a serious underlying condition such as meningitis or stroke. In such cases, the individual must be carefully assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.