A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling. Warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.
Symptoms of migraine can start a while before the headache, immediately before the headache, during the headache, and after the headache. Although not all migraines are the same, typical symptoms include:
- moderate to severe pain, usually to one side of the head but capable of occurring on either side of the head
- severe, throbbing, or pulsing pain
- increasing pain during physical activity
- inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- feeling sick and physically vomiting
- increased sensitivity to light and sound, relieved by lying quietly in a darkened room
- Some people experience other symptoms such as sweating, temperature changes, stomach ache, and diarrhea.
Researchers believe that migraine has a genetic cause. There are also a number of factors that can trigger a migraine, including
- Hormonal changes in women
- Bright or flashing lights
- Loud noises
- Strong smells
- Too much or not enough sleep
- Sudden changes in weather or environment
- Overexertion (too much physical activity)
- Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
- Skipped meals
- Medication overuse (taking medicine for migraines too often)
- Certain foods and food additives such as:
- Aged cheeses
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Some fruits and nuts
- Fermented or pickled goods
- Cured or processed meats
Hormonal changes: Women may experience migraine symptoms during menstruation, due to changing hormone levels.
Emotional triggers: Stress, depression, anxiety, excitement, and shock can trigger a migraine.
Physical causes: Tiredness and insufficient sleep, shoulder or neck tension, poor posture, and physical overexertion have all been linked to migraines. Low blood sugar and jet lag can also act as triggers.
Triggers in the diet: Alcohol and caffeine can contribute to triggering migraines. Some specific foods can also have this effect, including chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, and foods containing the additive tyramine. Irregular mealtimes and dehydration have also been named as potential triggers.
Medications: Some sleeping pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications, and the combined contraceptive pill have all been named as possible triggers.
Triggers in the environment: Flickering screens, strong smells, second-hand smoke, and loud noises can set off a migraine. Stuffy rooms, temperature changes, and bright lights are also possible triggers.