This section of the website is for UK healthcare professionals only. If you are not a healthcare professional, please click here.
This section of the website is for UK healthcare professionals only. If you are not a healthcare professional, please click here.

This section of the website is for members of the public. If you are a healthcare professional,visit the HCP section of the site. This website is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. You should consult your doctor or another suitably trained healthcare provider when considering what type of treatment is most appropriate for you.

What is migraine?

Migraine is a complex neurological condition, which can affect the whole body. Symptoms may be general and include or occasionally not include headache.

Research continues, but at present it is not fully known what causes migraine; there is no clear diagnostic test and, as yet, there is no cure. There are however, many ways to help manage the condition and lessen its impact - ultimately reducing the disruption caused to daily life.

Migraine - The Signs and Symptoms

For most people the main feature of a migraine is a painful headache. However, there are other associated symptoms that can prevent an individual from continuing with everyday life, and these can occur with or without the headache. If you have two or more of the following symptoms during an attack, it is probable you are suffering from migraine:

  • Headache - Intense throbbing headache, often on one side of the head only;
  • Nausea and / or vomiting. You may also experience diarrhoea;
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and / or smells;
  • Neurological symptoms that include visual disturbances such as blind spots, distorted vision, flashing lights or zigzag patterns;
  • Other common aura symptoms you may experience include: dizziness, vertigo, tingling or pins and needles in the limbs, an inability to concentrate, confusion, difficulty speaking, paralysis or loss of consciousness (in very rare cases)

These symptoms, often called ‘aura’, can occur before an attack happens lasting from a few minutes to up to an hour. However, this is usually only experienced by about 20 - 30% of people. Migraine with aura was previously known as classical migraine.

The symptoms of a migraine can vary from person to person and during different attacks. Migraine attacks may differ in their frequency, duration and severity, although, normally they last between 4 and 72 hours, and most people are symptom-free between attacks.

How is Migraine treated?

Over The Counter Treatments

These are the headache / migraine medications that you can buy over the counter without a prescription.

Prescription Painkillers

If over the counter medication is not working for you contact your doctor who can prescribe stronger painkillers.

Anti Sickness Treatments

Many people find that strong painkillers have no effect on the severe pain of a migraine headache. Research indicates that the stomach can slow its normal activity during an attack, a condition known as "gastric stasis", when little is absorbed into the blood stream, and therefore no benefit is gained from any tablets that have been swallowed.

Drugs prescribed and bought over the counter for nausea and vomiting can help the digestive system to work properly again.


Drugs known as triptans, or 5HT agonists, have been especially developed to treat migraine. They act by controlling an imbalance in a local hormone called serotonin. This imbalance is thought to affect migraine attacks. For many people, these drugs bring significant relief, but they are not suitable for everyone.

Further information about Migraine

Find out more about Migraine by visiting - Migraine Trust also have two free support services (information and advocacy), which can be reached via the contact form on their website or on 0203 9510 150.

Migraine Trust is a national advisory and support charity for people affected by migraine.