Evil Headache + 39 More Migraine Symptoms You Need to Know

When you hear the word “migraine,” that pulsing, unbearable headache often comes to mind. Maybe you associate Migraine with the unpleasant sensations of nausea or sensitivity to light.

But Migraine is a mysterious neurological disease that has wide-reaching effects on body and mind.

This condition affects 1B people globally and is the 6th leading cause of disability worldwide (1).

Some people struggling with Migraine may not even be aware that it’s impacting their life. And that’s because Migraine is so much more than an evil headache. Read on for our definitive list of 40 symptoms of Migraine.

Your Senses

Image: Migraine Action Art Collection: Image 515, Unnamed artist, Untitled (1985)

People experiencing Migraine with aura report a series of changes to their senses just before and during an attack. These changes, collectively called “aura,” are often warning signs that a Migraine attack is on the way.

They typically appear 10 to 60 minutes before the onset of headache (2) and usually last no more than an hour.


1. Visual disturbances

A common sign of Migraine with aura, disturbances to vision include blind spots, zigzags, flashing and flickering lights, floaters, dots in the vision, double vision, tunnel vision, and visual snow.

This is the brain’s signal of an impending Migraine attack. Changes in vision may occur before, during or after the pain subsides. Vision symptoms may also appear with no pain. Visual disturbances occur in about 25% of Migraine patients (3).

2. Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

Hiding in a dark room is a common way to cope with a Migraine attack. That’s because Migraine heightens the senses, including sensitivity to light also known as photophobia.

People experiencing Migraine are often bothered by fluorescent lighting in grocery or retail stores, flickering or strobe light effects, LED lights and the blue light emitted by computer screens.


3. Tinnitus

It’s one of the most aggravating symptoms of Migraine. That ringing or buzzing in your ear is called tinnitus.

Phantom sounds are a common hallmark of Migraine and can vary in volume, pitch and which side of the head they affect. You may hear ringing, clicking, buzzing, whooshing, hissing or even something like your heartbeat in your ear, called pulsatile tinnitus.

Tinnitus is associated with many other conditions but often presents in people living with Migraine.

Woman annoyed while the man is snoring

Sensitivity to sound, including repetitive noises, increases with Migraine.

4. Sensitivity to sound (phonophobia)

Shhhh. Silence is golden to a person experiencing Migraine and that’s because sensitivity to sound, known as phonophobia, increases before an attack, making noise downright painful.

Repetitive noises that typically get filtered out as background noise become unbearable (the leaf blower, the bass from a stereo, the barking of a neighbor’s dog), and unexpected sounds make you positively jump out of your skin.


5. Sensitivity to touch (allodynia)

Have you ever experienced a painful ponytail or sensitive scalp? Or just feel grumpy and irritated when someone tries to touch you?

You may be dealing with a symptom called allodynia, pain due to a stimulus that does not typically provoke pain.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, up to 80% of people experience symptoms of allodynia during a Migraine attack (4).

Tactile allodynia is a painful sensation after a light touch or pressure on the skin like a tap on the shoulder or glasses resting on your nose.

Mechanical allodynia is pain from movement across the skin like brushing the scalp with a hairbrush or pulling the bed sheets across the body.

Thermal allodynia is sensitivity to temperature changes, even as small as a few drops of cold water on the skin.

6. Tingling in the limbs or face, pins and needles feeling, numbness (paresthesia) 

Migraine aura often comes with a pins and needles feeling or numbness known as paresthesia. The tingling, prickling, stinging or burning sensation is felt in the extremities or on one side of the face and often accompanies an increased sensitivity to touch.

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