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Migraine warning bells – Top 8 signs to watch out for!!

27 November 2018


Migraine is a neurological condition that affects 1 in 7.  The attacks are not just a headache and can be quite debilitating.

A migraine starts showing warning signs during the prodome phase which could be between 12 -24 hours before an attack. The duration and symptoms may vary.

We asked our community what they thought were their warning signs for a migraine and have put together the list of the top 8 migraine alerts to look out for.




Lights and Visual Disturbance


Sensitivity to light or visual disturbances are a sign that you might be getting a migraine. Aura is quite common amongst migraine suffers. Nearly 30% migraineurs get an aura before and even during a migraine attack.

Some of the common signs are :

  • Blind/coloured Spots
  • Blurred vision
  • Tunnel vision
  • Zig zag lines
  • Flashing lights
  • Temporary blindness.
  • Watery eyes

”Sometimes I get a white light in my left eye like being dazzled by headlights.”

”They start with a small blurry blob like I’ve got something in my eye, this then expands to glittery aura.”

”Just zig zags across my vision. Horrendous feeling.”

Our factsheet on migraine with aura might be helpful if you have get visual disturbance before/during/after your migraine.




It is a common prodomal symptom. It is hard to detect this one for various reasons, but it is quite a prominent one that many exclaim is one of the first signs for them.

I can’t stop yawning but it took me years before I realised a connection.”

”Yawning all the time and just want to look down all the time as everything seems extra bright.”


Mood changes


Some people who suffer from migraines can sense a change in their mood and behaviour before a migraine. Sometimes relatives or friends notice first! If this is your warning sign then these changes can be either quite drastic or subtle.

You could feel:

  • Irritated
  • Annoyed
  • Subtle mood drifts – too happy or too sad
  • Excited – Hyperactivity
  • Confused
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Panicky
  • Premonition feelings

”I get an overwhelming panicky anxiety feeling, then an aura that grows and grows then the pressure and pain.”

”I get really irritable and snappy and then get an aura where I see zigzag lines or lose patches of sight.”

You might be surprised to know that depression and anxiety is three times more common in people who suffer from migraine. If you do find these symptoms troublesome or persistent, please consult your GP or Headache Specialist and discuss this with them.


Gut Issues 


Many migraineurs tend to get a sensitive stomach before an attack. They can feel cramps, nauseated, constipated or have diarrhoea. This is due to the irritation of the nervous system that controls the gut. Stomach emptying becomes less efficient and this results in slower absorption of medication as well as leading to nausea and sometimes vomiting.

‘My stomach goes funny. I feel constipated and light headed.”

P.S : Codeine can aggravate gut issues and can worsen your migraines.


Speech Difficulties

Many migraineurs get slurred speech or difficulty in speech as a  warning sign of migraine. This can be part of the aura. Some people struggle to find the words they want to say.

”Usually the first sign is I start stuttering and become really clumsy, then the aura appears and the yawning.”


Food cravings


This is an interesting one. Migraine can make you crave for sugar and carbohydrates mainly. Many  believe that chocolate or sweets  trigger their migraine. It may in fact be the migraine starting that triggers the craving for chocolate or something sweet.

For more information read our factsheet on ‘Food and Migraine’.

”Crave sweet stuff and start to feel lethargic.”

”I crave sweet stuff and immensely tired.”


Muscle Stiffness


Muscle stiffness particularly neck pains are on top of the list for many migraineurs. The pain can be around the neck and shoulder. It can be felt in the muscles or nerves.

Some people do feel that their neck pains cause migraines, but neck pains or muscle stiffness could simply be another warning sign of migraines. It can make you feel that your migraines are in the base of your neck, or that an attack radiates from the neck. You can watch Dr Robert Ghosh’s video  as he explains neck pains before migraine. Some people also feel the pain in their face around the sinus areas.

”Really stiff & tight back, then neck, then a real effort to hold my head up….”

Neck ache like I’ve slept funny very first sign. Then brain goes funny can’t think straight.”


Increased thirst and urination


If you see an increase in thirst and or urination, it could be sign of a migraine attack. This is part of the prodome phase and can mean a migraine is coming.

”I am really thirsty the day before and can’t stop yawning when I’m not tired.”

”Needing to wee more. Tiredness.”

If you experience these warning signs here is what you should do next:


  • A lot of these signs can be an indication of various other medical conditions and it’s important to speak to a doctor such as your GP or a Headache Specialist about them especially if they are new for you.
  • Keep a migraine diary: A simple migraine diary is the best way to keep a track of these warning signs and various other symptoms and triggers. Record the details of symptoms, pain scores and also medication taken, including date and time.
  • There are various apps that have made it quite easy for migraineurs to keep a record of their signs/symptoms and triggers on their mobile devices.
  • If you see a pattern, you might be able to avoid or at least lessen the impact of the attack. Use medication early in an attack to improve your chances of getting rid of a migraine or avoiding a severe one.

We can give more tips about how to appropriately use medication at an appointment with one of our Headache Specialists.


If you feel you are struggling with a migraine you can book an appointment to see one of Headache Specialist. Book Now!