Would you believe that millions of people get Migraines? A migraine usually feels like throbbing on one side of the head. They can also cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. And they can be much more severe than other headaches.

But migraines aren’t all alike. Since there are many types, yours might be very different from someone else’s.

Type: With or without aura?

First, there are two major categories of migraines: migraine with aura (once called “classical migraines”) and migraines without aura (formerly known as “common migraines”).

“Aura” usually includes visual symptoms like lines, shapes, or flashes. You may even lose some of your vision for 10 to 30 minutes. You could also feel tingling in your arms and legs. Auras can even affect smell, taste, touch, or speech.

Aura happens to about 1 in 4 people who get migraine headaches. It usually starts before the head pain begins and lasts up to an hour.


In either category, migraine pain tends to be chronic, primarily on one side of the head and is often described as an intense throbbing or pulsing. The pain associated with migraines is more intense than in tension headaches. It is thought of as a more severe headache.

Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photosensitivity (or sensitivity to light)
  • Photophobia (or discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure)
  • Migraine auras
  • Muscle tension
  • And much more

Typical over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen are often not enough to provide migraine relief.

When to see the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • A change in migraine features, how often a migraine happens, or how severe it is
  • A headache that lasts days, getting worse as it goes
  • A headache brought on by coughing, sneezing, bearing down, or straining while on the toilet

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you have:

  • The worst headache you’ve ever had, especially if it started very quickly
  • Headache after a head injury
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness
  • Fever or stiff neck with a headache
  • Confusion or lack of consciousness
  • Paralysis or weakness
  • Seizure
  • Change in vision
  • Vision loss

Learn more

Resources: WebMD, Pascoe.ca