Updated 22 February 2016

Symptoms of migraine

Migraines are severe headaches, experienced as an intense throbbing pain that can last up to 72 hours.

The pain of a migraine is felt as an intense, throbbing pain in the forehead, temple, ear, jaw or even around the eyes. It usually starts on one side of the head, but may eventually spread to the other side.

Migraines are sometimes preceded by an aura that usually starts about 30 minutes before the headache starts. The following are symptoms of aura:

- Blind spots

- Blindness in part of your visual field

- Zigzag lines

- Flashing lights

- Numbness of the lips and arm

- Hallucinations

- Weakness

- Difficulty speaking

The migraine is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:

- Nausea and vomiting

- Sensitivity to light

- Sensitivity to noise

- Irritability

- Low blood pressure 

An attack usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours and may be incapacitating enough to disrupt daily activities 

Read more: 

Treating migraines  

Causes of migraines  

When to see a doctor for your headaches

Reviewed by Dr Elliot Shevel, BDS, Dip MFOS, MB, BCh, Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon and Medical Director, The Headache Clinic, Johannesburg and Cape Town, February 2015.


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Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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