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Signs & Symptoms

Even if you’ve never suffered from regular headaches, it’s possible that you’re among the 39 million Americans who suffer from migraine disease if you experience some of the symptoms below.

Common symptoms of a migraine disorder include chronic dizziness, ear pressure, facial pressure and recurrent sinus infections. Click on each region to see signs and symptoms associated with that area of the body.

Head

  • Ear
  • Eye
  • Mouth
  • Nose
  • Face
  • Brain
  1. Persistent pressure or the feeling of blockage in one or both ears
  2. A feeling of water, ear pain or something crawling in the ear canal even though nothing out of the ordinary can be detected
  3. Sounds are too loud (sound sensitivity)
  4. A hissing, ringing or other noise in the ear that others do not hear (tinnitus)
  5. Persistent sense of imbalance (ataxia)
  6. Stabbing pain around and deep in one ear (temporomandibular pain)
  7. Discomfort when your ears are exposed to wind or cold (allodynia)
  8. Difficulty in understanding what people are saying, despite having a normal hearing test (central auditoy processing disorder)
  1. Bright sunlight or fluorescent lights are intolerable (light sensitivity)
  2. Unexplained occasional double vision or temporary partial and variable loss of vision
  3. Intermittent stabbing pain behind one eye or in the cheek (trigeminal neuralgia)
  4. Pressure or pain across the forehead, behind the eyes or across the face that occurs frequently (chronic sinusitis symptoms)
  1. Unexplained burning tongue or mouth
  2. Unexplained tooth pain
  3. Forceful contractions of the face, jaw, and/or tongue causing difficulty in opening and closing the mouth and often affecting chewing and speech (Oromandibular Dystonia)
  1. Unexplained nasal congestion and a runny nose (autonomic nasal dysfunction)
  2. Detecting awful smells that others do not (phantosmia) or sensitivity to smells (osmophobia)
  1. Facial pressure (across the eyes, cheeks, bridge of the nose)
  2. Double pressure sensation
  3. Sharp pain on one side of the face
  1. Mood and sleep disorders
  2. "Brain fog" reduces cognitive function - short term memory loss, inability to recall words or to multi-task
  3. Temperature regulation
  4. Difficulty in understanding what people are saying, despite having a normal hearing test (central auditoy processing disorder)

Whole Body

  1. Pain combing hair, sensitivity to touch wearing jewelry and/or tight fitting clothing (allodynia)
  2. Widespread pain and tenderness, chronic muscle pain, spasms or tightness and fatigue (fibromyalgia)
  3. Mood and sleep disorders
  4. Restless leg syndrome
  5. Difficulty in cognition
  6. Fatigue
  7. Temperature regulation

Abdomen

  1. An unexplained dry persistent cough (neurogenic cough)
  2. Abdominal pain and bloating, associated with bowel movements (Irritable bowel syndrome)
  3. Nausea, vomiting, belching, bloating, abdominal discomfort (gastroparesis)
  4. Unexplained abdominal pain – with anorexia, nausea, vomiting and pallor – and no symptoms between attacks (abdominal migraine)
  5. Vomiting four times per hour with no symptoms between attacks and no other explanation (cyclic vomiting syndrome)
  6. Inconsolable crying, tense abdominal muscles, clenched fists and curled legs, often after eating in babies (colic)

Pelvis

  1. Burning, stinging or pain in the vaginal region (vulvodynia)
  2. Frequent need to urinate, often with pelvic pain (neurogenic hypersensitivity as part of interstitial cystitis)
  3. Chronic widespread pain and tenderness (fibromyalgia)

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Migraine Symptoms

Migraine is more than a headache, it is a complex neurological disease that can cause symptoms through the whole body due the to impact it has on the nervous system. Hear the reality of living with migraine in our patient perspective video.

Established Migraine Conditions

Vestibular Migraine

This condition may soon be recognized as the most common cause of dizziness. It is distinctive for its wide range of symptoms (imbalance, spinning, ear pressure, and tinnitus), variable duration (seconds to days) and other nonheadache symptoms, such as difficulty seeing, intolerance for bright lights and noises, neck pain and spasms, confusion, spatial disorientation and increased anxiety). It mimics the two other common balance disorders, benign positional vertigo and Meniere’s disease. The most recent version of International Classification of Headache Disorders recognizes vestibular migraine as a subtype of migraine.

Altered Self-Perception (Alice in Wonderland syndrome)

Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome, named for Lewis Carroll’s principle character, is a disorder marked by short episodes when what one sees or feels is distorted. This often affects how a person feels about his or her own body.  For instance, his or her legs become large or small or even disappear, like the Cheshire cat. It is relatively rare and migraine is only one associated cause.

Abdominal Migraine

An abdominal migraine (AM) is a disorder, seen mainly in children, of repeated attacks of belly pain with nausea and vomiting, but with or without a headache.  These attacks last 2–72 hours with complete relief from pain between episodes. Headache does not occur during these episodes. About 2% of all children may get AM. Most children with AM will develop migraine headache later in life.

Migraine Comorbidities

Currently people are aware that migraine patients suffer from other common illnesses. As research is better able to explain the flawed human biology of these conditions, it will be more possible to explain the connections between these observations.

Motion intolerance

Almost half of all people with migraine have a history of motion sickness as a child. Most people discover that they have motion sickness when they feel nauseated when reading a book in the back seat of a car or riding an amusement ride.

Mal de Debarquement syndrome

Chronic rocking dizziness, often described as the feeling of being on a boat, is known as Mal de Debarquement syndrome (MDS). More than 40% of patients with MDS develop headaches.

Sleep disturbances

Sleep disturbance is a common complaint among patients with migraine. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among people with migraine but may also include obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, circadian rhythm disorder and hypersomnia.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition where a person has leg pain and/or an urge to move his or her legs. People with migraine have approximately a one in ten risk of this phenomenon during their lives – three times the frequency of those without a history of migraine.

Odd smells

When people smell an unpleasant odor, usually a burning smell, that others do not, it is called a phantosmia. This phenomenon occurs in less than 1% of people with migraine. The typical hallucination lasted 5–60 minutes, occurred shortly before or simultaneous with the onset of head pain. In most people, the unpleasant smell goes away with treatment of headaches. Unlike visual, sensory, language, brainstem, and motor symptoms, the International Classification of Headache Disorders currently does not recognize phantosmia as a symptom of migraine.

Rhinosinusitis (“midfacial headache”)

Currently the concept that migraine may be the cause of a patient’s complaints of acute, recurring and chronic rhinosinusitis is not widely accepted. The location of pain and pressure over the cheeks, eyes and forehead, combined with a runny nose and nasal congestion convinces patients that they are suffering from a “sinus” infection. The most common features associated with sinus headache include nasal congestion and runny nose – the same as when infection or inflammation affects the nose and sinuses.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that causes widespread pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and psychological distress. People with FM may also have other symptoms, such as morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches (including migraines), and overlaps with other migraine comorbities, including irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, cognitive problems with thinking and memory, painful menstrual periods and other pain syndromes.

The increased appearance of FM with increased age and high occurrence among women parallels the behavior of migraine disease. FM is more common among people with migraine than in the general population. FM was present in 35% among people with chronic migraine.

Colic

Colic, the pain and crying which affects about 10% of babies, may be a childhood form of episodic migraine. It appears that colic occurred three times more than expected among children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 years with migraine.

Gastroparesis and Functional Dyspepsia

Gastroparesis (GP) is a chronic disease of either the muscles of the stomach or the nerves controlling the muscles that causes delayed emptying of solids and liquids without evidence of mechanical obstruction. Patient with gastroparesis have a range of uncomfortable feelings after eating, including unusual fullness, nausea, loss of appetite, heartburn, regurgitation of food or acid, and belching. Functional dyspepsia (FD) is defined as a difficulty digesting food and has the same presenting symptoms. Importantly, however, delayed gastric emptying is present in 30% of patients with FD.

While there are many causes of these two closely related conditions, they share malfunctions of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in the nervous system of the intestinal tract.

Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, bladder pain syndrome and chronic pelvic pain, is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder. It usually consists of recurring pressure or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, sometimes with urinary frequency and urgency. Hypersensitivity or inflammation of pelvic nerves is one of several potential triggers. Migraine headache is common in women with chronic pelvic pain (67%).

Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a chronic unexplained pain in the area around the vaginal opening. The symptoms, such as pain with first tampon insertion, vulvar burning, or burning with urination make prolonged sitting or sex uncomfortable. Compared to women without vulvodynia, those with vulvodynia are two to three times more likely to have one or more other chronic comorbid pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. Vulvodynia has several potential etiologies. A link of this condition to central neural pathology has been proposed.

Pregnancy Complications

Women with a history of migraine disease are at increased risk of hypertension, pre-eclampsia, premature birth and placental abruption. The association of migraine with problems with the lining of blood vessels may explain these interrelated complications of pregnancy.

WHAT CAUSES MIGRAINE?

You’ve explored symptoms, now learn about what causes migraine.