Health Conditions A-Z Neurological Disorders Migraine Migraine Symptoms Migraine attacks come in four stages, each with its own set of symptoms. Here is what to expect in each stage. By Mark Gurarie Mark Gurarie Mark Gurarie is a freelance writer covering health topics, technology, music, books, and culture. He also teaches health science and research writing at George Washington University's School of Medical and Health Sciences. health's editorial guidelines Updated on May 18, 2022 Medically reviewed by Kashif J. Piracha, MD Medically reviewed by Kashif J. Piracha, MD Twitter Kashif J. Piracha, MD, FACP, FASN, FNKF, is a practicing physician at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email Getty Images Migraine is a type of headache that leads to recurring bouts of throbbing or pulsing pain, often on one side of the head. Other symptoms of migraine include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. With symptoms changing and lasting for up to several days, it's little wonder the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study found this condition to be one of the most disabling. If you've experienced migraine, you're far from alone. Migraine affects one in seven people worldwide, with women three times as likely to experience it, the American Migraine Foundation (AMF) reports. Being able to recognize migraine symptoms is critical in managing the condition. It lets you get proactive about managing attacks and easing the burden of migraine. What Are the Symptoms of Migraine? As those with migraine are all too aware, migraines aren't just headaches—they can sideline you from daily life. A migraine attack can last anywhere from a day to a little over a week, though one to two days is usually the case, according to the AMF. The attacks come on in four stages, each with a distinct set of symptoms. There are many types of this headache disorder, which means not everyone experiences migraine the same way. But here's a breakdown of the possible migraine symptoms, by stage, someone can have. Prodrome The prodrome phase is the first stage of a migraine attack. During this time, several symptoms can develop. Those with a history of migraine are usually able to see these as signs that a headache is coming. According to MedlinePlus and the AMF, in the 24 hours before migraine headaches, you may experience: Food cravingsSudden shifts in moodYawningExcessive urinationFluid retentionConstipationNeck and shoulder stiffness Aura About a third of people with migraine experience aura, a time of sensory symptoms like visual disturbances, shortly before the migraine headache, per MedlinePlus. This aura phase usually serves as a warning that a migraine headache is coming, developing within an hour of the headache's start. During this phase, you may: See zig-zagged lines or flashesExperience blind spots or double visionFeel numbness or tingling in your hands or mouthGet extremely dizzyHave difficulty speaking Headache Attack Headache is the principal symptom of this phase. It can feel like a pulsing and throbbing and can be moderate to severe. It's also often localized on one side of the head. But headache isn't the only symptom during this phase. During the headache attack phase, you can also experience: Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or certain smellsNausea and vomitingMore headache pain when you move, cough, or sneeze It can take anywhere from four hours to three days for this phase to pass. Postdrome After the headache phase, people can experience a period of recovery from the head pain known as the postdrome phase. This is sometimes called a migraine hangover because it can share symptoms of a typical hangover. During postdrome, the AMF says you may experience: FatigueNauseaSensitivity to lightDizzinessBody achesDifficulty concentrating This phase lasts anywhere from hours to several days. When to See a Health Care Provider People who have headaches might not realize that what they're experiencing is actually migraine. It's estimated that less than half of people with migraine go to a healthcare provider for help, according to the AMF. If you have headaches, you should consider going to a health care provider to discuss a potential migraine diagnosis if you experience the symptoms of migraine and your headaches: Interfere with your daily lifeHappen frequentlyAre self-medicating more than two times a weekDon't respond to medication Although they are sometimes disabling, most migraine headaches aren't themselves dangerous or signs of other health issues. Living with migraine means learning ways to manage and prevent attacks. It also means knowing when your symptoms might be due to a cause other than migraine. The American Headache Society says there are headache red flags that should signal to someone with a history of migraine to call their healthcare provider or seek emergency help. That's because these red flags might mean that something other than migraine—such as stroke, blood clot, or change in blood pressure—is causing the headache. According to the AMF, the signs you should get medical help for a headache include: A headache that reaches full intensity rapidly, like a thunderclapA headache that comes on suddenlyA progressively worsening headacheSudden changes in your headache patternA headache that feels better based on your positioning (ie, lying down vs. standing up)Speech difficultiesFeverWeight loss Recap With their characteristic moderate to severe headaches, often impacting one side of the head, migraine headache can be debilitating. Alongside head pain, the attacks may also cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and sensitivity to light or sound. Everyone experiences migraine differently, with some people also having visual disturbances, or auras, prior to onset and others having hangover-like symptoms following the headache. Since there's no outright cure for migraine, living with the condition means learning the signs that attacks are coming, working to manage and ease symptoms, and incorporating prevention strategies. If headaches and other symptoms are impacting your life, you're best off being proactive about getting help. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Steiner TJ, Stovner LJ, Jensen R, Uluduz D, Katsarava Z. 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