How to Treat 5 Different Types of Migraines

Most migraines fall into one of two categories:

  1. Migraine without aura, also known as a common migraine.
  2. Migraine with aura, also known as a classic migraine.

Migraines without aura can include any or all of the symptoms commonly associated with migraines:

  • Severe headache, often one-sided, pounding or pulsing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling hot or cold
  • Weakness

Migraines with aura have all that plus pre-migraine aura, which are visual, auditory, or olfactory disturbances that act as a warning that a migraine is on its way. It may occur up to 24 hours before the start of headache and might include:

  • Flashes of light
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing zigzag or wavy patterns
  • Blind spots
  • Noticing odors that aren't present
  • Hearing buzzing or ringing sounds

Less common migraines include:

Acephalgic, or silent migraines, might include many migraine symptoms but without the classic headache. For instance, a person with a silent migraine might have an aura, nausea and fatigue, but no head pain.

Ocular migraines are also called retinal, ophthalmic, or monocular migraines. They usually manifest as short episodes of visual disturbances like blind spots or blindness in one eye that commonly last about an hour. Some ocular migraines feel like pain or pressure behind the eye. These symptoms usually occur with or after a migraine headache.

Basilar migraines are rare. The aura is thought to be caused by a vasospasm of blood vessels in the brainstem. Symptoms can include dizziness, visual disturbances, loss of balance, speech disturbance, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. These symptoms usually last less than an hour and usually precede a migraine headache.

How Are These Migraines Treated? 

While there is no cure for migraines, there are many effective treatments. Doctors agree that the best remedy is prevention, which is why migraine sufferers are encouraged to keep a migraine diary that includes details about when migraines occur and the foods, activities, and conditions that happened around the start of the migraine. Then if patterns emerge indicating certain conditions act as migraine triggers, those conditions can be avoided or the migraine sufferer can take medications to counteract a migraine attack in advance. Other remedies for classic, common, and rare migraines are similar and include preventive measures to keep migraines from occurring and abortive measures to block migraines once they've begun:

  • Aspirin
  • Caffeine
  • Triptans (serotonin receptor agonists)
  • Calcium channel blockers and beta blockers
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Magnesium and riboflavin
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Botox injections
  • Pain medications including over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • Tri-cyclic Antidepressants
  • Hormonal contraceptives
  • Anti-nausea medications

Getting appropriate medical treatment from a primary care physician or neurologist is the key to relieving your migraines. These doctors will also advise you to get adequate rest and exercise as a way to prevent future migraine attacks. If you have migraine symptoms, especially the more unusual ones, call your healthcare provider right way. 

Dennis Bley, DO, reviewed this article.



National Headache Foundation

Migraine Aura Foundation