Common types of migraine include migraine with aura, or classical migraine, and migraine without aura, the most common type. Migraine symptoms can differ depending on the type of migraine a person has.

Migraine is a neurological disorder that can cause severe, strong, and intense episodes of headache and other symptoms.

The condition has a high prevalence, particularly among young people. It is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting more than 1 billion people per year.

Different types of migraine have different symptoms, such as visual disturbances, motor problems, and communication difficulties.

This article outlines the types of migraine, including their symptoms. It also discusses migraine diagnosis and when to seek medical help.

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Migraine symptoms can vary depending on the type of migraine and its severity. Common symptoms include:

  • pounding headache
  • increased sensitivity to light, smells, and noise
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • lack of energy

The following sections outline some different types of migraine and their symptoms.

Migraine without aura is the most common type of migraine, accounting for around 75% of cases. It is also called episodic migraine. For doctors to diagnose this type of migraine, a person must experience at least five episodic attacks per year.

Migraine without aura develops in phases:

  • Premonitory phase: A person may experience symptoms such as fatigue, muscle stiffness, constipation, food cravings, mood changes, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Headache phase: This phase is characterized by moderate to severe headaches lasting 4–72 hours. Symptoms may also include throbbing pain, pain on one side of the head, and headache that worsens with physical activity.
  • Postdrome phase: The postdrome phase follows the migraine attack. In people experiencing migraine without aura, symptoms may continue even after the attack. People may experience symptoms such as poor concentration, fatigue, and low mood.

The International Classification of Headache Disorders lists migraine with aura as one of the most common migraine types. However, it is less common than migraine without aura, accounting for only 25–30% of cases.

Experts use the term “aura” to describe the symptoms a person with migraine experiences 20–60 minutes before the headache begins. According to the American Migraine Foundation, these symptoms may include sensory disturbances such as tingling on one side of the body, bright dots and sparks in one’s vision, and speech problems.

A person with this type of migraine may also experience weakness in the hands and legs. Some people may experience only the aura, without developing a headache.

Learn more about migraine auras.

Doctors diagnose chronic migraine when a person experiences a headache on at least 15 days per month, with 8 of those days featuring migraine symptoms. This must occur for more than 3 months.

Chronic migraine often develops gradually. According to older research, around 2.5% of people with episodic migraine develop chronic migraine each year. Another older study found that 26% of participants with chronic migraine experienced remission within 2 years.

With chronic migraine, the severity of symptoms may vary from day to day. On days when symptoms are less severe, a person may mistake the condition for a tension headache.

Living with chronic migraine can severely impact a person’s quality of life, affecting their work, social life, and relationships.

People may also overuse pain relievers to the point that the medications become ineffective and lead to medication overuse headaches. A doctor can advise a person about pain relief options to help minimize negative effects.

Medical experts previously called this condition basilar-type migraine or brainstem migraine. This type of migraine can cause the following neurological symptoms, which may occur with or before a migraine headache:

  • slurred speech
  • vertigo, a sensation of movement
  • tinnitus, a ringing in the ears
  • double vision
  • unsteadiness of movement
  • fainting, or syncope
  • a tingling sensation
  • numbness in the arms and legs
  • visual changes, such as seeing patterns or flashing lights

People may experience migraine with brainstem aura at any age. If people have their first migraine attack after age 50, they will need tests such as an MRI scan to rule out other causes.

Learn more about migraine with brainstem aura.

Some symptoms of hemiplegic migraine are similar to those of a stroke. It is a rare form of migraine with aura that also involves motor problems such as temporary weakness on one side of the body and slurred speech.

Other possible symptoms of hemiplegic migraine include:

  • vision changes
  • difficulties with communication, including understanding and using language
  • confusion

A person may experience weakness lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days. A person may or may not experience a headache during a hemiplegic migraine.

Learn more about hemiplegic migraine.

Retinal or ocular migraine causes repeated vision disturbances in one eye. The symptoms may include flashes or sparkles of light and a temporary loss of vision. The loss of vision can last from a minute to a few months.

Retinal migraine is rare, but it is more common in females than in males and most common in those aged 30–39.

Learn more about retinal migraine.

A migraine attack is more severe than a bad headache. A person should consult a doctor if they experience frequent, severe headaches that occur alongside other debilitating symptoms.

If a headache worsens over time, interferes with daily life, or does not improve after a person uses over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, a person should consult a doctor who can diagnose and recommend treatment.

Learn more about the difference between migraine and headache.

Diagnostic criteria vary depending on the type of migraine. Healthcare professionals often look for a pattern of recurring headaches and accompanying symptoms. They also look at the duration and intensity of those symptoms.

To diagnose migraine, doctors will take a person’s medical history and may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan.

To help with diagnosis, people can keep a migraine diary, recording the type, duration, and frequency of symptoms.

Learn more about CT scans for migraine diagnosis.

Migraine is a neurological disorder that causes symptoms such as severe headache, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and lack of energy.

Migraine without aura is the most common type. Doctors may diagnose this if a person experiences five or more migraine attacks per year. Different types of migraine cause different symptoms, such as visual disturbances and motor problems.

If migraine attacks affect a person’s quality of life and do not respond to OTC pain relievers, a person should consult a doctor. Doctors will consider a person’s medical history and may order imaging tests to reach a diagnosis.