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Migraines are common and usually very painful. There may be ways to prevent them, and there are good treatments for them.


Many people who have migraines feel vaguely unwell for a day or two beforehand.

Some people get what is called an aura. Some people see flashing lights or a change in their vision, some find problems with their speech, and some feel pins and needles in their arms and legs. This can happen before or during a migraine.

When the headache starts, it is usually severe. Your heads throbs, and it might hurt to see bright lights or hear noises. You might feel sick, and you might vomit. This can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days.


Nobody knows what causes migraines.

They can run in families, but don’t have to.

Some people find that migraines are triggered by certain things such as:

  • cheese, chocolate, red wine and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • stress and changes of routine
  • changes in the weather
  • hormonal changes and the oral contraceptive pill for women
  • alcoholic drinks (especially red wine and beer).


Your doctor will diagnose migraines by talking to you and examining you. There is no specific test to diagnose migraine. However your doctor may do tests to exclude other causes of headache.


If you suspect you are getting a migraine, you may get some relief from pain-relieving medicines. Some people find they can prevent the headache by treating it early. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about options.

During the headache, rest in a quiet dark room. Get as much help as possible to take over any responsibilities with work, family and so on.

If you get migraines fairly often, then preventive medicines may help.

If you have just started getting migraines, then keeping a diary about them would help you understand when they happen, and what triggers them. That may help you prevent them, and may also help you to explain what you are experiencing with your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your migraines, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: October 2017

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