A Guide to the Different Types of Migraines

sick young woman suffering from headache at home

Migraines are one of the most common neurologic disorders in the world and affect more than one billion individuals each year. Each type of migraine has overlapping symptoms, but they also have migraine symptoms unique to the specific type of migraine. While many people suffer from migraine pain, few understand the different types of migraines and how the types of headaches can determine which treatment is best for them.

This is why it’s so important to understand how the different types of migraine operate so that you can identify which type you have. Some types of migraine don’t even cause a headache, so it can be quite confusing.

So, keep reading to find out more about the different types of migraines.

Migraines With Auras

Many people who suffer from migraines experience “auras” before or during their migraine. These auras can present differently from person to person, but most commonly, people experience:

  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Seeing colored lines over their visual field
  • Seeing hazy light spots
  • Tingling in their body

There isn’t a clear reason why some people experience these auras, but most experts agree that it’s caused by cells in the brain being activated in an abnormal way. These cells cause changes in blood flow to the area of the brain that controls your vision and feeling.

If you’re in the Houston area and you’re looking for migraine solutions, consider the National Headache Institute located here.

Migraines Without Auras

If you don’t experience auras, then you most likely only present with the usual migraine symptoms. This is the most common type of migraine. People who experience migraines without auras often experience:

  • Severe pain without visual symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to sound and light

Since experts don’t understand why some people experience auras and others don’t, it’s difficult to pinpoint how these migraines differ other than the visual symptoms.

Chronic Migraines

Migraines are classified as chronic when you have headaches at least 15 times a month. Out of those 15 days, eight of those need to have migraine symptoms. If these symptoms and constant headaches continue for at least three months, then it’s classified as chronic.

People who don’t reach the 15-day mark but still have constant headaches and migraines are classified as having episodic migraines.

Chronic migraine symptoms usually include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, and smells
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seeing auras
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo

Hemiplegic Migraines

Hemiplegic migraines are a rare type of migraine that causes muscle weakness before and during the migraine, and the person may also see auras. Arms, legs, and face muscles are most often affected by this type of migraine, and it can present on a single side of the body or both sides at once. The muscle weakness can also switch sides during the migraine.

People who suffer from hemiplegic migraines often feel confused during and before the attack. Some people also start slurring their words before and after the attack. These symptoms go away after a while but can be traumatizing to the victim.

This type of migraine tends to run in families and is tied to variations in certain genes.

Retinal Migraines

Retinal migraines cause changes to a person’s vision before and during the attack. Unlike auras, a retinal migraine only causes symptoms in one eye at a time. Common symptoms include:

  • Eye twitching
  • Seeing twinkling lights
  • Partial vision loss

In severe cases, retinal migraines can cause permanent vision loss. These migraines are caused by a disturbance of the nerves in your retina. Your eye struggles to sense light and process visual information during these attacks.

Silent Migraines

Silent or acephalgic migraines are migraines that have all the classic migraine symptoms but exclude the headache. These migraines can be incredibly confusing as most people associate migraines with severe headaches. Some people only experience silent migraines, whereas other people experience multiple types of migraines.

The most common symptom of this type of migraine is vision and perception issues. Silent migraines are often misdiagnosed as a stroke as they share many similarities.

Status Migrainosus

This type of migraine is a debilitating migraine that lasts for over 72 hours. These migraines often don’t go away on their own, and you have to go to the emergency room for treatment. 

These migraines interfere with your life more than some of the other types, as you struggle to function normally with this prolonged pain. If you experience these migraines often, then it might be best to schedule a visit to a neurologist that specializes in migraines to try and get some help.

Menstrual Migraines

Menstrual migraines are tied to a person’s menstrual cycle. These migraines tend to hit two to three days before a cycle starts but can also be triggered by the end of a cycle. This type of migraine often lasts longer than normal migraines and can cause severe nausea.

These migraines are caused by a decrease in estrogen and progesterone hormones.

Types of Migraines Explained

If you experience migraine symptoms, it’s important that you understand the differences between the various types of migraines. This will make it much easier to get treatment in the future as you can accurately describe exactly what you’re experiencing. If you still struggle to identify your specific type of migraine, then it’s a good idea to keep a migraine diary where you list all your symptoms each day and take it to your doctor.

If this article taught you something new about migraines, check out our Health section for more content.

Written by Patricia

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