Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 13th March 2019

Migraine is a severe headache, often associated with sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. It is usually (but not always) a one-sided headache that is described as throbbing or pulsating.


The cause of migraines is not known, although there does appear to be a genetic element. People with a parent or sibling that has migraines are likely to also suffer with migraines too.

Risk factors

  • Females are 3 times more likely to have migraines than males1
  • Being on your period (more than half of women with migraine have migraines related to their period, often occurring between 2 days before and 3 days after a period)1
  • Family history of migraine
  • Stress and lack of sleep

Typical Symptoms

  • Prolonged, severe headache
  • Worse when moving around
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unable to look at bright light
  • Unable to cope with noise
  • Aura: abnormal vision or sensations immediately before the headache

Common Treatment

  • Resting in a dark room
  • Common painkillers
  • Medications to prevent the cause of migraines
  • Anti-sickness medications

It is important to note that painkillers used to remedy headaches can in turn be a cause for headaches, so if you keep having headaches or are worried they might be migraines, it is a good idea to speak to a GP and make sure you are taking the right type and amount of medication.

When to speak to a doctor

Migraines can often be initially managed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next.

You should to speak to a doctor urgently if you have:

  • Severe pain at the back of the head
  • Pain at the back of the head
  • Sudden headache, like a thunderclap
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Very frequent or prolonged headache
  • Weakness in your limbs/face
  • Double vision
  • Poor balance
  • Visual symptoms in only one eye


Migraine can be managed and prevented by:

  • Avoiding triggers
  • Medications to help prevent migraines

For more information on common migraine triggers, you can visit the NHS page on migraine causes.


  1. NICE Migraine Last revised: October 2018 Accessed 13/3/2019