The most common symptoms of a migraine attack include a throbbing headache, nausea (queasiness and feeling sick), vomiting (being sick), feeling tired and sensitivity to light and noise.

Do you recognise the 4 stages of a migraine attack?

There can be four stages of migraine associated with different migraine symptoms, though fortunately not all patients get all stages:

  1. Prodrome is mood change hours or days before the headache. This can be mistaken for a migraine trigger: “stress/chocolate causes my migraine” when in fact the prodrome causes irritability, or makes you crave chocolate


  1. Aura usually happens just before the headache. Each aura symptom (there can be more than one) lasts up to an hour, typically affecting vision, though can cause numbness, dizziness, paralysis, speech difficulty, memory loss, or collapse. Visual aura normally begins off-centre asymmetrically in both eyes and gradually enlarges with blackness, zigzags, lights or patterns which can affect half or all vision. It can be helpful to cover or close one then the other eye to check that vision from both eyes is affected.


  1. Head pain or pressure is typically thumping or pulsing. It can affect any part of the head, including the face or the neck. It can feel just like “sinusitis”. It lasts hours or days, not minutes or weeks. If head pain is mild or absent, the diagnosis is difficult.


  1. Recovery can take a day or two, when there are no particular symptoms other than feeling ill


For more information, see our migraine factsheets.