Learn more about the different types of migraine headaches

If you’ve had a migraine before, you probably don’t need a definition. It’s a pulsing, throbbing headache that gets worse with movement.

Most of the time, you need to lie down in a dark, silent room until it goes away. A typical migraine may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. Learn how to identify the different types of migraines, so you can seek the treatment you need.

Find contact information for the Headache Center at UPMC.

Types of Migraines: Common Symptoms to Know

There are several different types of migraines. Let’s look at the two most common types first:

  • Migraine without aura. These migraines start with pain usually on the side of the head and have symptoms you expect with a migraine.
  • Migraine with aura. Some people have symptoms about 30 minutes before a migraine begins. You may see wavy lines and flashing lights, and experience distorted vision or a tingling feeling. This is called an aura.

There also are less common migraine types that people experience. In some cases, the symptoms can easily be confused with other conditions.

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  • Migraine aura without headache. Sometimes the aura occurs without the headache. This is more common in people over age 50 who have a history of migraines.
  • Ophthalmoplegic migraine. Most often affecting young people, this rare type of migraine causes a severe headache along with weakness in one or more muscles that control eye movement. Someone with this type of migraine also may have dilated pupils, drooping eyelids, or difficulty moving the eye until the migraine passes.
  • Hemiplegic migraine. Also very rare, a hemiplegic migraine causes weakness on one side of the body. This can be a scary experience, because the symptoms often mimic those of a stroke. Symptoms resolve when the migraine passes, but it’s best to get checked out by a medical professional to make sure the weakness or changes in speech aren’t caused by another problem.
  • Vestibular migraine. Sometimes dizziness, vertigo, and balance problems can accompany a migraine. These can be tricky to diagnose because, at times, the vertigo may appear without a headache. This happens more often in people who have a history of migraines in childhood.

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If you regularly experience severe headaches or migraines, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor to make sure there’s not a more serious problem. There are many treatment options available to deal with migraines, and your doctor can help you identify triggers to try to prevent headaches.