Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


2-minute read

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).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2017

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results


Read more on Queensland Health website

Headache and Migraine Awareness Week

Headache Australia will be hosting free public forums on Migraine Management during Headache and Migraine Awareness Week, 14 - 19 September.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Managing migraine - NPS MedicineWise

Migraines affect about 1 in 10 people, particularly women. Learn about signs & symptoms, treatment, & prevention of migraine.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

What is a migraine? - Headache Australia

What is a migraine? Migraines are headaches that typically last from 4-72 hours and you may experience nausea and vomiting as well as sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine sufferers frequently report throbbing pain that worsens with normal activity. Migraines are associated with auras in some people. Auras are warning symptoms that may occur before... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Can migraines be prevented? - Headache Australia

Yes. Preventive medications may reduce not only how many migraines you experience, but may also reduce the intensity and duration of your migraine attacks. However, you may still have to use acute medications if you have a migraine.

Read more on Headache Australia website

Migraine - Headache Australia

Migraine is a common & distressing disorder. It's not likely to take life but can destroy the quality of life during it's most rewarding moments.

Read more on Headache Australia website

Migraine Management Tips - Headache Australia

Take note: track your condition in a headache diary Its important to be organized and informed about your migraine attacks and how they impact your life. Tracking this information in a headache diary and then sharing the details with your physician will help ensure that you and your healthcare provider can put together an effective... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Help loved ones cope with your migraine - Headache Australia

While you may be the one who endures the pain of a migraine attack, your family, friends and colleagues often experience some impact, too. A disabling migraine may cause you to miss your lunch date, client meeting or your sons big soccer game. As a result, loved ones may become frustrated, resentful or disappointed. Understand... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Acute medication - Headache Australia

Acute medications are treatments taken at the onset of a migraine attack to reduce the symptoms associated with migraine. There are a variety of medications available for the acute treatment of migraines, depending upon the severity of the attack. Medications used at the onset of migraines include: Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Paracetamol Ergotamine... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Brain Foundation | Migraine

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo