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What is Migraine?

Breaking down migraine

Migraine impacts 1 in 7 people, most often between the ages of 15 and 55. And women are three times more likely to have migraine than men.


MILLION PEOPLE in the U.S. are impacted by migraine — one of the most disabling conditions worldwide.

What is migraine?

Migraine is a neurological condition that can cause intense pain on one or both sides of the head for 4 to 72 hours. It is a recurring type of headache. But unlike other headaches, the pain often includes:

Throbbing or pulsing

Pain in the temples or behind one eye or ear

Light and sound sensitivity

Types of migraine

There are two common types of migraine: with aura and without aura. Aura is a phase of a migraine attack when people may see flashes of light, have blind spots, or feel tingling in their hands or face.

in 5

people with migraine experience aura —
most commonly men

How migraine can disrupt your life

Some people have migraine attacks one or two days per month. Other people may have more than just one or two migraine attacks per month.

While each person experiences migraine differently, the impact almost always disrupts their everyday life. The pain, nausea, sensitivity, and exhaustion make it difficult to function — which can affect work, school, and your family and social life.

It's hard because migraine is always there in the back of your mind. I'm always worried about when the next one's going to happen.

Ellie W

Actual Nurtec ODT Patient

Individual results may vary

What are the symptoms of migraine?

People with migraine can experience many different symptoms, which often occur within four stages of a migraine attack.


The first stage of a migraine can start as early as 24 hours before you get an attack. The common signs and symptoms of prodrome include:

  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes
  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Difficulty concentrating


10 to 30 minutes prior to an attack, some people experience the aura phase. Aura may also continue in the headache phase of an attack. These symptoms may include:

  • Seeing bright or flashing lights or zig-zag lines
  • Feeling tingling or numbness in the hands or face


Stage three is what most people consider the attack itself. Migraines typically start gradually and become more intense over time. The most common symptoms in this stage include:

  • Throbbing or pulsing pain, commonly on one side of the head
  • Pain at the temples or behind one eye or ear
  • Increased sensitivity to light, noise, and odors
  • Nausea and vomiting


The state following the headache, postdrome can last up to two days after a migraine attack. Symptoms may include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Joyful mood
  • Depressed mood

What causes migraine?

Researchers have yet to pinpoint exactly what causes migraine. Many believe you are more likely to have migraines if it's part of your family history.

More specifically, many researchers believe that a possible cause of migraine pain is related to a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). When the brain releases CGRPs, they attach to receptors and cause nerve inflammation — starting a migraine attack.

Migraine triggers

What triggers a migraine attack is unique to you, and can be brought on by a single trigger or a combination of triggers. This may even lead to avoiding situations out of fear that a trigger could cause an attack.

There are four major migraine triggers to be aware of: travelweather changes, stress and menstruation. In addition, too much or too little sleep, physical exhaustion, certain foods and alcohol, bright and flashing lights, and medication overuse can trigger an attack.

Prevent certain situations from triggering your next migraine attack

Treating migraine

Learn about the range of available migraine treatments.

Need more resources?

 provides global access to information and resources on migraine. They also support important research toward treatment advances, as well as patient support and advocacy.

 is driven by the vision of a world without headache to provide advocacy, research, awareness, and education for headache pain and the people who experience it.

 is devoted to expanding the understanding of migraine and its full spectrum of symptoms. This goal is supported by their podcasts, symposiums, awareness campaign, and comprehensive research initiative.

treating migraines

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