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Reviewed by Dr Karina Palad, MD
Written by updoc's Editorial Team
Published 14 July 2023

What You Need To Know Migraines

Migraines are a common and often debilitating neurological condition that affects 4.9 million Australians (20.55% of the population). They can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and productivity, it is crucial to understand and effectively manage this condition.

Symptoms Of Migraines

Contrary to popular belief, migraines are more than just headaches. Migraine symptoms can vary significantly from person to person, however there are some common symptoms associated:

  • Intense throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision or visual disturbances
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Tingling or numbness in the face or extremities
  • Difficulty concentrating or finding words

It's important to note that not all individuals experience all of these symptoms, and the severity and duration can vary as well.

How Do You Get Migraines?

The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood. However, there are several factors that have been identified as potential triggers:

  • Genetics: Migraines tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component
  • Hormonal fluctuations: particularly in women, can trigger migraines
  • Environmental factors: stimuli like bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, or changes in weather patterns can act as triggers
  • Emotional and physical factors: Stress, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, and physical exertion can contribute to migraines
  • Dietary factors: Some foods and beverages, such as aged cheeses, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, have been associated with migraines in some individuals

Identifying and managing these triggers can play a significant role in preventing and managing migraines.

The 4 Stages Of A Migraine

Migraine attacks can be divided into four distinct stages:

  • Prodrome: occurs before the headache phase and is characterised by subtle changes that may indicate an impending migraine attack. Symptoms can include mood swings, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased urination, or frequent yawning.
  • Aura: typically occurs before or during the headache phase. It involves temporary neurological symptoms, such as visual disturbances (flashing lights, zigzag lines), tingling or numbness in the face or limbs, or difficulty speaking or understanding language. Not all migraine sufferers experience this stage.
  • Headache: the most intense and debilitating stage of a migraine attack. It is characterised by severe head pain, usually on one side, in conjunction with previously mentioned symptoms
  • Postdrome: this stage can leave a person feeling exhausted, mentally foggy, and emotionally drained. Some individuals may also experience mood changes, such as feeling euphoric or mildly depressed.


Diagnosing migraines involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare practitioner. They will review your medical history, discuss your symptoms in detail, and may conduct physical and neurological examinations. In some cases, additional tests, such as imaging studies or blood tests, may be recommended to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

If you’re experiencing migraine, keeping a record of migraines including the frequency, duration, intensity, and characteristics can be helpful in the diagnostic process. This information can help your healthcare practitioner in understanding your case, making an accurate diagnosis, and developing an effective treatment plan.

Keeping a headache diary that tracks the frequency, duration, and characteristics of your migraines can be helpful in the diagnostic process. This information can assist your healthcare provider in making an accurate diagnosis and developing an effective treatment plan.


Migraines cannot be cured completely, however there are many treatment options available to manage and alleviate the symptoms. The goals of migraine treatment are to reduce the frequency, provide relief during episodes, and improve overall quality of life. Treatment approaches can include:

  • Over-the-counter medications: such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be effective for mild migraines. 
  • Prescription medications: including triptans, ergots, and anti-nausea medications, are available for more severe migraines or those accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
  • Preventive medications: If you experience frequent or severe migraines, your healthcare provider may prescribe preventive medications to reduce the frequency and intensity of episodes. These medications are taken regularly, even during periods without migraines.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Making certain changes in your lifestyle can help manage migraines. These may include identifying and avoiding triggers, practicing stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises or meditation, getting regular sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
  • Alternative therapies: Some individuals find relief from migraines through alternative therapies like acupuncture, biofeedback, or herbal supplements. It is important to discuss these options before trying them.

However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare practitioner to discuss your case, and develop a personalised treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a migraine?
A migraine is a neurological condition that involves abnormal brain activity, resulting in intense headaches. 
Why do migraines hurt?
During a migraine, certain chemicals in the brain are thought to fluctuate, leading to the activation of the trigeminal nerve. This nerve release causes inflammation and pain signals that are perceived as a throbbing headache.
How long does a migraine last?
Migraines typically last from a few hours to a few days, with the duration varying from person to person, even from one episode to another.
What are the 3 types of migraines?
The three types of migraines are migraine without aura - moderate to severe headaches, migraine with aura - headaches with visual disturbances, sensory changes, and chronic migraine - when an individual has migraines 15 or more days a month for three months.
How do I stop a migraine?
It is not always possible to stop a migraine once it starts. However, you can alleviate migraine symptoms and potentially shorten an episode by finding a dark and quiet place to rest, apply a compress to the head or neck, practice relaxation, drinking water, and avoiding triggers such as bright lights and loud noises.
Can I request a day off for a migraine?
Yes. Migraines are a complex disorder and can be affect your ability to perform tasks, requiring you to take time to rest. With updoc, you can request a consultation for a medical certificate or medical advice.

Disclaimer: this can affect individuals differently and on a case by case basis. It it best to consult with your health practitioner to seek medical advice and receive a personalised diagnosis, and treatment plan.

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