Migraine types

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You may experience symptoms a few days before a migraine attack, such as changes in mood, appetite and energy levels.2 The symptoms you may experience can often depend on the type of migraine you have.

The three most common migraine types

Let’s start with the three most common migraine types.

1: Migraine without aura

Migraine without aura is the most common type of migraine.3 An attack is usually felt as an intense, throbbing headache, usually to one side of your head, lasting anywhere between four hours and three days.3

2: Migraine with aura

Migraine with aura means you may experience the aura stage before getting a headache.1 Migraine aura includes a wide range of neurological symptoms and can last from 5 to 60 minutes in the lead up to a headache.4 Migraine aura is a set of neurological disturbances, such as blind spots, slurred speech and dizziness.2

3: Migraine aura without headache

Migraine aura without headache has the warning signs of a migraine – the aura, or neurological disturbances – but the headache itself doesn’t happen.5

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Migraine types

Other migraine types have different symptoms

4. Chronic migraine is migraine that you experience for 15 or more days in a month.6

5. Retinal migraine (known also as ocular migraine) is a type of migraine attack where you lose vision or experience disturbances in one eye.7

6. Abdominal migraine is migraine where pain is felt in the abdomen rather than as a headache and causes stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. This type of migraine is more common in children.8

7. Menstrual migraine is linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle, and generally occurs within a couple of days either side of a period.9

8. Migraine with brainstem aura (formerly known as basilar migraine) which can cause loss of balance, double vision, difficulty speaking, and fainting.10

9. Hemiplegic migraine is a rare but severe form of migraine that causes temporary paralysis, usually to one side of your body. For some people, the aura symptoms can last as long as a few weeks.11

10. Ophthalmic migraine, is another rare type of migraine where there is a weakness in the muscles of the eye. It particularly affects young people. In addition to headache, people experience visual symptoms like dilation of the pupils, problems moving the eyes and drooping of the upper eyelids.12

11. Vestibular migraine, also known as migraine associated vertigo, can cause destabilizing symptoms like dizziness and vertigo.13

12. Status migrainosus is a type of migraine where headache symptoms last for three or more continuous days.14 With this form of migraine, there is also risk of dehydration and sleep loss as a result of prolonged pain and vomiting.4

Knowing what migraine type you might have, or at the very least, understanding the migraine symptoms you’re experiencing, can help you and your healthcare professional get an accurate diagnosis and a management plan for the best possible care.

Are all migraines the same?

Professor Sabina Brennan, a psychologist specializing in brain health from Trinity College Dublin, explains the different migraine types, providing more detail on the symptoms of migraine with and without aura.

What migraine type do you have?

Because there are so many different migraine types, it is important that you get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor so that you can manage the migraine in the best possible way. It is important that your doctor knows all of your symptoms and the full impact of migraines on you.

Migraine is divided into different degrees of severity based on how many migraine days you have per month.15

  • Episodic migraine is a type where you experience 1-14 headache days a month
  • High-frequency episodic migraine is a type where you experience 8-14 headache days a month
  • Chronic migraine is a type where you experience headaches for 15 days or more per day. month, for more than three months, of which 8 days a month are characterized by migraine symptoms

A migraine diary or app can help you detect your migraine symptoms and triggers, as well as identifying your migraine type. Bring the diary or app when you go to the doctor so you can review it together and find the best plan for dealing with migraines for you.

If you already know that you have a migraine and you are unhappy with your current migraine treatment, you can contact your doctor to find out more about your treatment options. If necessary, make an appointment for a follow-up interview about your current treatment


  1. NHS Choices. Migraine. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Last accessed: June 2021]
  2. NHS Choices. Migraine Symptoms. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Symptoms.aspx [Last updated: June 2021]
  3. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Migraine Without Aura. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/migraine-without-aura/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  4. The Migraine Trust. Symptoms and Stages. Available at: https://www.migrainetrust.org/about- migraine/migraine-what-is-it/symptoms-and-stages/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  5. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Migraine Aura Without Headache. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/aura-without-headache/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  6. The Migraine Trust. Chronic Migraine. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of- migraine/chronic-migraine/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  7. WebMD. Ocular Migraine Basics. Available at: https://www.webmd.boots.com/migraines- headaches/guide/ocular-migraine-basics [Last accessed: June 2021]
  8. WebMD. Abdominal Migraine. Available at: https://www.webmd.boots.com/migraines- headaches/guide/abdominal-migraines [Last accessed: June 2021]
  9. NHS. Migraine Prevention. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Prevention.aspx [Last accessed: June 2021]
  10. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Basilar Migraine. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/basilar-migraine/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  11. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Hemiplegic Migraine. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/hemiplegic-migraine/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  12. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Ophthalmoplegic Migraine. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/ophthalmoplegic-migraine/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  13. The Migraine Association of Ireland. Vestibular Migraine. Available at: http://www.migraine.ie/types-of-migraine/vestibular-migraine/ [Last accessed: June 2021]
  14. WebMD. Status Migrainosus. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/status-migrainosus-symptoms-causes-treatment [Last accessed: June 2021]
  15. Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society