Migraines are acute attacks of blasting headaches that usually last for half a day. The aches get worse as you physically exert yourself and move your head. The cause is not known, but migraines can be triggered by, for example, stress, hormone changes or some food and drink. The risk of having migraines increases if you have a relative who has it. Migraine attacks are almost always harmless.

Headaches can come on suddenly or with different symptoms before. Some get so-called aura before the headache begins. Aura can be a sight phenomenon, worse speech, or worse feeling. This type of migraine was formerly called classic migraine but is now called migraine with aura.

The problems tend to decrease after the age of 40. Children can also get migraines, but it is more unusual. The attacks in children are shorter and usually last half an hour to one or a few hours.

Symptoms of migraine

The most common symptoms of migraine, in both adults and children, are that

  • you get headaches that are often severe and intense, but which can also be moderate and vary in intensity during a seizure
  • the pain feels boring, throbbing or pulsating
  • the pain sits on one side of the head or at one eye, but it can also be double-sided
  • the pain worsens when you touch your head and by physical activity
  • you become hypersensitive to scents, sounds and lights
  • you feel ill and vomit
  • you get tired and find it hard to concentrate.

You can get confessions before the attack

More than half of those who have migraines can get a few hours up to a day before the headaches begin to get a feeling that an attack is on. These bodies are often diffuse and can manifest themselves in different ways.

You can

  • get a feeling of unease in the body
  • get mood swings
  • feel unwell and get stomach upset, such as lighter stomach pain and gases
  • get swollen hands and feet
  • yawning, getting abnormally tired and getting tension and slight sore throat
  • get hungry for sweets and affected appetite
  • Feel alert, clear-thinking and excited.

Some get aura

The most common symptom of the aura is that you experience vision phenomena, such as a growing empty hole in the field of vision, blurred dizzy visual impressions, zigzag patterns, flashes, flickering or double vision.

You can also get tingling and numbness around your mouth and in one arm. It can start in the hand and then spread up along the arm. You can have difficulty controlling the body and talking as usual. You may also get distorted body image.

The symptoms during the aura phase tend to be similar in one person, but can vary greatly between different people.

Auran usually comes before the pain

If you have migraine with aura, it is common for the aura phenomenon to occur before the headaches. The aura usually lasts twenty to thirty minutes, sometimes up to an hour. After the auras start to give, the headaches usually come. Sometimes the headaches come after a short interval. Auran can also come during the headache phase.

There is also migraine with the only aura, without any headache. This is becoming more common with increasing age. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish circulatory disorders in the brain, such as stroke, from migraine aura without headaches.

After the attack

After the migraine attack you can become tired, easily irritated and apathetic. If you have had a severe attack, you may even feel bruised and end up for a few days afterward.

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health care center if any of the following applies to you:

  • You think you have migraines.
  • You have migraines and need to take medication frequently.
  • You think you have migraines and the medication does not help.

If closed, you can wait until the on-call reception or medical center opens.

If it’s in a hurry

If you have a migraine attack for several days or have sudden headaches that you do not recognize, contact a health center or emergency room immediately . If closed, seek medical attention at an emergency room.

Treatment for Migraine

There is a lot you can do yourself to prevent migraines or relieve a seizure. There are also several types of medicines for migraine. On the one hand, medicines that help when you have a seizure and on the other, preventative drugs that reduce the risk of having a seizure.

The healthcare staff should tell you what treatment options are available. They should make sure you understand what the different options mean, what side effects are available and where you can get treatment. This way you can help decide which treatment for migraine is right for you.

Preventing migraines

You can almost always reduce your migraine problems by avoiding stress and living a quiet and regular life with recurring rest, enough sleep and regular meals. It is also good to avoid what you know triggers the migraine.

Most importantly, avoid stress. For some, it may help to avoid certain foods. Regular exercise and relaxation exercises can also help.

Women who have increased migraine problems due to birth control pills should stop taking these, or change their preparations. Combined birth control pills should not be used for migraine with aura. Women who both have migraines with aura often, smoke and use birth control pills have an increased risk of having a stroke, and should, therefore, stop smoking and consider changing the method of contraception.

When you have a seizure

When you have a seizure, it helps to lie down and rest in a calm and dark place. If you fall asleep, the attack often goes faster.

Drug treatment for migraine

Prescription-free pain tablets can relieve the pain when it is at its beginning or if it is mild. But if you have a more severe migraine attack you may need prescription drugs. Often, the drugs can relieve the seizure if you take them early.
Read more about drug treatment for migraines.

If you take too much medicine, the headaches can get worse. Therefore, it is very important that you have control over how much medicine you take, especially in severe and recurrent migraine attacks. You can greatly benefit from keeping a migraine diary where you write down which medications you take and when you take them. The migraine diary is also valuable when talking to health care. It is important to bring it with a doctor.

Causes of migraines

The cause of migraine is not entirely known, but research has shown that the attack starts in the central nervous system of the brain. To some extent the disease is hereditary.

The researchers believe that during the migraine attack, there is a complicated interaction between the brain’s nerve cells, nerves, and the blood vessel system.

One theory is that the nerve cells in central parts of the brain such as the hypothalamus, thalamus and brainstem participate in the initiation of the attack while the cerebral cortex is affected by the auras. This applies especially to the nerve cells in the neck lobe where the visual center is located. Discharges are thought to occur in these nerve cells that lead to both aura symptoms and pain, nausea and hypersensitivity to light, sound and scents.

Another theory is that there is a migraine center in the part of the brain called the brain stem. According to this theory, signals originating from the migraine center which causes the so-called trigeminal nerve to be activated and send signals partly to a pain center in the brain stem and partly to other structures such as blood vessels. It causes severe pain. The nerve signals are also thought to go to other parts of the brain, causing nausea and hypersensitivity to light and sound.

More common among women

Almost every fifth woman and about one in ten people have migraines. Many people with migraines get just over one seizure per month. Sometimes, but it is unusual, several attacks occur every month. Seven out of ten people who have migraines have a close relative who also has the disease.

Migraine without aura is much more common than migraine with aura. About 20 percent have migraines with aura.

After the age of 40, migraine headaches tend to decrease and it becomes more common to have only headaches without any headaches.

Children can also get migraines, but it is more common and the attacks are shorter. Child migraines disappear in half of the children at the age of 14-15.

What triggers a migraine attack?

What triggers migraine varies from person to person and can also vary from time to time in the same person.


Stress is the most common cause of a migraine attack. Often, the attack comes only when you relax, for example on the weekend after a stressful work week or on the first day of the holiday. Also, chronic stress can lead to a marked worsening of the migraine.

hormonal changes

In women, there is a connection between migraine and hormone changes. It is common for the disease to appear already during puberty. Many suffer from attacks of migraine in connection with menstruation. The trouble usually disappears or is alleviated during pregnancy if you have migraine without aura. Migraine with aura, on the other hand, usually worsens during pregnancy. Birth control pills can make the problems worse, but in some cases, they can relieve them. During the menopause period, the symptoms can increase while they often become softer or disappear after menopause.

Food and drinks

Certain foods and drinks can play a big role in some people. For example, chocolate, mustard cheese, and other strong cheeses, red wine, citrus fruits, spicy food, and soybean oil.

Physical exertion, insomnia, temperature

Prolonged physical exertion can also cause migraines. If you stay at high altitude, the hassles can increase. You may also get migraines from too little or too much sleep, heat or strong sunlight, loud noises, strong-smelling perfume, or fluctuations in temperature.

Risks in rare cases

Migraine attacks are almost always harmless. Only in very rare cases can the blood supply to the brain decrease so sharply during the aura phase that some of the brain tissue can be damaged. It is called migraine-triggered cerebral infarction, a variant of stroke, and is characterized by the persistence of aura symptoms over several days. If you experience aura symptoms for a day or a migraine symptom for several days, you should contact your health care provider for further examination. The risk of this type of migraine increases if you simultaneously smoke and use the pill.


Migraines can sometimes be confused with tension headaches, and it is not uncommon to get both types of headaches.

In order for the doctor to diagnose migraine, five documented typical seizures are required for migraine without aura. In the case of migraine with aura, two documented seizures are sufficient.

With the help of calls and examinations of the nervous system, nasal sinuses, and blood pressure, the doctor finds out if you have migraines. If you have a migraine diary, it is good to bring it as a support. Sometimes blood tests are also taken to check blood sugar, blood levels and lowers. You may also be able to undergo contrast x-rays of the brain, so-called computed tomography or CT, or a magnetic camera examination, but this is rarely necessary for common migraines.

Influence and participate in your care

You can seek care at any healthcare center you want throughout the country. There you also have the opportunity to have a regular doctor’s contact.

In order for you to be active in your care and to make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare personnel. Ask questions if you don’t understand. 

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