Symptoms of migraine vary by migraineur. They may also vary from migraine to migraine. Some symptoms are also specific to a particular stage of migraine: aura, prodrome, "headache," and postdrome. Visit the pages for those stages to see a list of symptoms specific to each stage. Below is a list of common symptoms.
See the Aura page for more details.
Headache is the most common, and the most commonly known, symptom of migraine. The headache most frequently occurs during the "headache" stage of a migraine, though a migraineur may begin to experience headache as early as the aura stage. Headache is often bilateral (only on one side of the head.) However, the headache may switch back and forth between the different hemispheres of the brain during a migraine, and sometimes the headache may occupy both hemispheres at once. Some headaches may even occur in the middle of the head.
Headache pain is often a throbbing ache, usually increasing in intensity upon physical activity. The headache may also worsen when the migraineur lies down, or when exposed to light, sound, or particular smells (see photophobia and phonophobia.)
General Digestive Problems
The early phases of a migraine are often accompanied by constipation, followed in later stages by diarrhea or other abdominal discomfort. This constipation, and sometimes cessation of digestive activity, may prevent painkillers or other medications from being absorbed by the body, thus rendering them ineffective.
A feeling of pressure in the head, and specifically in the sinuses, can cause some sufferers to mistake a migraine for a sinus headache or a tension headache.
Fatigue is a common symptom. It frequently occurs in the postdrome stage, though it can be present throughout.
An elevated temperature is rarely present in a migraine, though it is possible. Usually, a fever indicates that the headache is a secondary headache (not a migraine). If accompanied with cold-like symptoms, the presence of a fever may indicate that the sufferer is actually having a sinus headache.
More commonly, a migraineur may feel waves of hot or cold and believe they have a fever, while their temperature remains in normal ranges. These unpleasant feelings of a change in body temperature may even be accompanied by shivering, sweating, and a flushed face. See "Altered Facial Expressions" on this page for more details regarding flushed cheeks.
Altered Facial Expressions
Migraines can be visible to others in the face of the migraineur, by a blush or flush, paleness, or altered expression. This change in expression may be due to the tightening of facial muscles as a response to pain, or may be caused more directly by the migraine.
During a migraine episode, neurological symptoms can impair cognitive abilities. However, there is no indication that there is any permanent damage to cognitive abilities in migraineurs, regardless of whether they have common migraine or migraine with aura.
- Oliver Sacks. Migraine. First Vintage Books, 1999. pp. 17-23
- Pamela M. Rist, ScD and Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD. "Migraine and cognitive decline: A topical review." Headache. 2013 Apr; 53(4): 589–598.  December 18, 2016.