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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Migraine is a headache disorder. They may happen many times a week or once every few years. Sensations called auras may come before a migraine headache.

Migraines can be so severe that they get in the way of daily activities.


The exact cause is not known. Genes may play a role. Some things that may trigger a migraine are:

  • Things in the environment, such as odors and bright lights
  • Some foods and drinks, such as alcohol
  • Some medicines
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Stress
  • Changes in the body, such as menstruation and puberty
  • Weather changes

Risk Factors

Migraines are more common in people under 50 years of age. They are also more common in women.

Things that may raise the risk of migraines are:

  • A family history of migraines
  • Changes in hormones during menstruation


Migraines happen in these phases:


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is often made based on symptoms. Tests may be done to rule out other problems.


The goal of treatment is to ease headaches to help with quality of life. Using cold compresses and trying to sleep in a dark, quiet room may help.

Other options are:


It is not clear how to prevent migraines from ever happening. Migraine events may be prevented by:

  • Using relaxation methods
  • Eating a healthful diet and drinking plenty of water
  • Exercising regularly, such as doing yoga
  • Avoiding known migraine triggers
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking prescription medicine to prevent migraines


A warning may come before a migraine. A person may have these symptoms in the hours or days before a headache:

  • Changes in mood, behavior, and activity level
  • Tiredness and yawning
  • Food cravings or lack of hunger
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light




  • Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/migraine-in-adults.
  • Migraine information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Migraine-Information-Page.
  • Migraine prophylaxis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/migraine-prophylaxis-in-adults.
  • Reese, O., Lukas, R.V., et al. Challenge case report: increasing frequency of migraine. Practical Neurology, 2020. Available at: https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2020-jan/challenge-case-report-increasing-frequency-of-migraine/pdf.
  • Silberstein, S.D., Holland, S., et al. Evidence-based guideline update: pharmacologic treatment for episodic migraine prevention in adults: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology, 2012; 78 (17): 1337-1345.


  • James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.