Migraine Headaches

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Published on June 26, 2020

Migraine Headaches

Photo of a woman experiencing a headache as the world blurs around herMigraine headaches are often severe and throbbing, and very different from other types of headaches. Symptoms other than pain can occur with a migraine headache such as nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, sensitivity to light (photophobia) and visual changes. Migraines are also unique in that they have distinct phases. But not all people have each phase. These include:

  • Premonition phase. A change in mood or behavior that may occur hours or days before the headache.
  • Aura phase. About one-third of people who have migraine headaches describe having an unusual “feeling” or aura before the headache. The aura phase includes visual, sensory, or motor symptoms that occur just before the headache. Examples are hallucinations, numbness, changes in speech, visual changes and muscle weakness. Migraine sufferers may or may not have an aura before the start of a headache.
  • Headache phase. This is the period during the actual headache. Throbbing pain occurs on one or both sides of the head. Sensitivity to light, fatigue and motion are also common during this phase.
  • Headache resolution phase. Pain lessens during this phase. But it may be replaced with fatigue, irritability and trouble concentrating.


According to Andrew Imparato MD, Family Medicine Specialist with PIH Health Physicians, “A migraine may be caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals, such as serotonin. Migraines may also run in families suggesting a genetic link.”

The most common symptoms of migraine headaches may include:

  • Throbbing, severe headache pain with a specific location either on one side or both
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Visual changes, such as a flashing light or even lack of sight, for a short period of time
  • A change in mood or behavior hours or days before the headache
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fatigue, irritability and trouble concentrating as the headache goes away

Dr. Imparato also tell us, “These symptoms may look like other health problems so it’s important to see your doctor. Be sure to talk about your symptoms and share when headaches occur, where they occur and how long they last. Migraine headaches are diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam, and treated depending on those symptoms, your age and overall health.”


Migraine headaches may be prevented by trying any of the following:

  • Staying away from known triggers, such as certain foods and beverages like caffeine, lack of sleep, and fasting
  • Changing eating habits
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule
  • Resting in a quiet, dark place
  • Taking medicines, as advised by your doctor
  • Managing stress
  • Getting a therapeutic massage
  • Taking prescribed medicine when you have an aura, as advised by your doctor

To find a family medicine doctor to help keep you healthy and well, visit PIHHealth.org/Find-a-Doctor today.

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.