9 Classic Migraine Symptoms (& Who is Most At-Risk)

Medical review: Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
January 2022

A migraine is a genetic and chronic neurologic condition that causes symptoms like a pulsating headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and sensitivity to light. The diagnosis is made by a family doctor or neurologist through assessment of symptoms, and if necessary, further testing.

The classic symptoms of a migraine include:

  1. Intense headache that lasts about 3 hours, but can persist for up to 3 days
  2. Throbbing pain that occurs more on one side of the head
  3. Changes to sleep and appetite
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Dizziness
  6. Blurred vision or streaks of light in the vision field
  7. Sensitivity to light and noise
  8. Sensitivity to certain smells, like perfume or cigarette smoke
  9. Difficulty concentrating

It is also common for headaches to worsen with activities of daily living, like going up or down stairs, driving or bending over.

In addition to these symptoms, you may also experience vision changes, like flashes of light or brightness. The indicate the presence of a migraine with aura.

Learn more about how to identify a migraine and how it differs from other types of headaches. 

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Who is most at-risk for a migraine?

The causes of migraines are still not very well known, although they are more common in women due to hormonal changes with the menstrual cycle. In addition, people who experience periods of high stress or have difficulty falling asleep tend to suffer from migraines.

Other factors, like use of certain medications, eating processed foods and weather changes can all increase the chances of triggering a migraine.

How treatment is completed

Treatment of a migraine should be directed by a neurologist, who may prescribe medications like sumatriptan, rizatriptan and lasmiditan can help with relieving pain, while other medication can help with related symptoms (like metoclopramide for nausea).

To treat a migraine effectively, it is important to learn how to recognize the first symptoms that normally occur before a headache, like general malaise, pain at the back of the neck, mild dizziness or sensitivity to light, smells or noise. That way, you can start treatment as soon as possible. Learn more about the specific medications used and the natural home remedies you can use to complement prescribed treatment. 

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Written and updated by Daisy Oliveira - Registered Nurse on January of 2022. Medical review by Dr. Clarisse Bezerra - Family Doctor, on January of 2022.


  • LONGO, Dan L. et al.. Medicina interna de Harrison. 18.ed. São Paulo: AMGH Editora, 2013. 114-120.
  • AMERICAN MIGRAINE FOUNDATION. Common Types of Migraine and Related Symptoms. Available on: <https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-related-symptoms/>. Access in 23 Jul 2020
Show more references
  • MELHADO, Eliana Meire. Dor de cabeça e enxaqueca: tudo o que você precisa saber!. Rio de Janeiro: Atheneu, 2017. 31-33.
  • NHS. Migraine: symptoms. Available on: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/symptoms/>. Access in 23 Jul 2020
Medical review:
Dr. Clarisse Bezerra
Family Doctor
Dr. Bezerra possesses a medical degree and specializes in family medicine. She is licensed to practice under CRM-CE licence #16976.