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Types of Migraine Headaches

Topic Overview

There are two main types of migraine headache:

  • Migraine without aura (common migraine). Most people with migraines have common migraines. This type of migraine causes a throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain is moderate to severe and gets worse with normal physical activity. You also may have nausea and vomiting and may feel worse around light and sound. The headache lasts 4 to 72 hours if it is not treated. A common migraine doesn't begin with an aura.
  • Migraine with aura (classic migraine). Some people with migraines get an aura up to 30 minutes before they have a migraine. Symptoms of the aura include seeing wavy lines, flashing lights, or objects that look distorted. Other symptoms include tingling or a "pins-and-needles" feeling.

Other types of migraine headache include:

  • Menstrual migraine. Many women have migraines around their menstrual cycle. These occur a few days before, during, or right after their period. The symptoms are the same as those of common or classic migraines.
  • Migraine equivalent. Migraine equivalent is a migraine aura that is not followed by a headache. This form of migraine often happens after age 50 if you had migraines with aura when you were younger. The symptoms may include streaks or points of light moving across your field of vision.
  • Complicated migraine. These are migraines that cause symptoms such as numbness and tingling, trouble speaking or understanding speech, or not being able to move an arm or leg. These symptoms go on after the headache goes away.
  • Abdominal migraine. These migraines usually occur in children. The symptoms include vomiting or dizziness, without a throbbing headache. The symptoms may occur about once a month.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Revised June 4, 2013

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