7 Types of Migraine

7 types of migraines, migraine with aura, migraine infographic

Not All Migraines are the Same

Most migraine sufferers do not get the correct diagnosis. The importance of knowing which type of migraine you have cannot be understated: it is essential for getting the best form of treatment available to you. Some medications that are effective for one form of migraine may actually pose a danger for another

There are seven classes, or types of migraines. Your migraine classification will not be based on when you get them or how you feel them, but by the methods doctors use to diagnose and treat them.

Keep in mind that it is possible for an individual migraineur to experience different types of migraines at different attacks. For example, a migraine with aura sufferer may occasionally suffer from a migraine without aura.

How the Doctors Classify Migraines

How migraines are medically classified - and thus treated - is often different than the way sufferers classify their migraines by how it makes them feel, or by when they happen, such as a weekend migraine, or menstruation migraine, which we will cover in another article.

Migraine without Aura

Typified by a sudden onset of throbbing headache pain often focused on one side of the head. Sufferers may also experience a variety of other symptoms such as dizziness, sound, movement, light and smell sensitivities, fatigue, depression, vision problems including scotoma – temporary partial blindness. They last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days. They occur in a frequency of several times per year to several times per week.

Migraine with Aura

Not all migraineurs will experience aura. Lasting anywhere from 5-60 minutes, aura characterized by various neurological and visual symptoms, some of which can be frightening. The aura can happen with or without the headache attack phase. Changes to the brains visual cortex causes visual disturbances such as:

  • Coloured spots
  • Dark spots
  • Sparks, flashes, or ‘stars’
  • Colours and light from objects and people
  • Visual ‘burn in’ from lights
  • Zigzag lines
  • Lengthening of coronas around lights at night

You may also experience some disorienting physical symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Weakness
  • Numbness and/or Tingling - pins and needles sensation
  • Speech or hearing disturbances
  • Memory difficulties
  • Feelings of depression, fear, euphoria

Migraine without Headache

It’s possible to experience the aura without headache, often a disorienting experience. Any other associated symptoms listed above under Migraine with Aura, but without the headache pain. It can be confusing when you don’t experience the migraine pain and many migraine sufferers may attribute the discomfort to something else if not aware of the symptoms.

Migraine with Brainstem Aura

This type of migraine with aura originates from the brainstem and is very similar to migraine with aura but without motor weakness. It is most commonly suffered by children and adolescents, especially girls at onset of menstruation. A migraine with brainstem aura attack may be accompanied by dizziness, vertigo, visual disturbances, loss of vision, poor muscle coordination, tinnitus and fainting. Pain is typically throbbing and focused on the back of the head.

Hemiplegic Migraine

A frighteningly severe, but rare form of migraine with aura that leaves sufferers temporarily paralyzed on one side of their body before or during their headache attack. Thus can be a very frightening experience, especially the first time when it may seem like a stroke. The paralysis can last from several hours to several days. Sufferers may have difficulty speaking, swallowing, seeing and may experience vertigo, a stabbing pain, numbness, ‘pins & needles’ feelings beginning before the headache pain, but usually subsiding a little while later.

Retinal Migraine

Retinal migraines are very rare. The attacks are focused on one eye, resulting in scotoma, temporary loss of vision and visual disturbances similar to those experienced by sufferers of migraine with aura. The pain is typically throbbing.

Chronic Migraine

Chromic migraine is about frequency: Over 3 months, 15 or more headache attacks per month occur that share migraine features and symptoms for 8 days per month or more can be classified as chronic migraine. Regardless of whether or not the migraineur experiences aura, they can seriously hamper day to day living and quality of life and can be disabling. It is recommended that you work with your physician to find treatments that can help you. Begin recording a detailed Migraine Journal as soon as possible and begin identifying possible migraine triggers. Lifestyle changes may have to occur to accommodate the illness and to avoid certain triggers.