Disease at a Glance: Migraine

The exact cause of migraine is not known – some experts believe it may be triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain, while others lay the onus on fluctuating hormone levels in the body. It’s also commonly believed that emotional triggers (stress & anxiety) or physical triggers (tiredness & sleep deprivation) or dietary triggers (lack of food or dehydration) often play a part in setting off a migraine.


Common Symptoms

Moderate to severe headache in one part of the head
Nausea & vomiting
Sensitivity to light, sound or smell


Migraine is characterized by moderate to severe pain (throbbing or pulsating) in one part of the head. This is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound or smell. There’s no known cure for migraine. Over-the-counter pain medications and anti-emetics are often prescribed for symptomatic relief. Severe migraine cases may, however, require urgent medical attention.


There are four phases in a migraine, though everyone may not always experience all of them:

  • Prodrome, which may occur a day or two before and is characterized by altered mood, irritability, fatigue, stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
  • Aura, which immediately precedes the severe headache and is characterized by visual disturbances, speech problems, limb weakness, etc.
  • Pain Phase when the headache occurs; the pain can last for a few hours or even up to day or so.
  • Postdrome, which occurs after the headache has passed and is characterized by a feeling of being “hung-over”.



1. US National Library of Medicine (
2. NHS Choices (
3. Mayo Clinic (
4. Migraine Research Foundation (



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