Migraine Symptoms: What to Expect

Although the experience of a migraine headache can vary from person to person, typical migraine symptoms include:

  • Moderate to severe throbbing pain
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Pain (typically) on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Pain that is worsened by physical activity

Unfortunately, migraines tend to be recurring. Individuals who have them often suffer one to three attacks per month.

Auras: Signaling an Impending Migraine

Some people experience a warning signal that a migraine attack is about to begin, called an “aura”. This is typically a visual disturbance that can range from blurred vision to bright lights or patterns, although other characteristics of auras might include:

  • Partial loss of sight or blurred vision
  • Sensory symptoms, such as numbness or tingling of the face
  • “Smelling” odors that aren't really there
  • Problems talking or understanding conversations
  • Confusion or disorientation

An aura usually develops over 5 to 20 minutes and lasts less than an hour.

Tension Headaches and Cluster Headaches: NOT Migraines

Although tension and cluster headaches can be painful, they’re not migraines. So, how can you tell whether you are experiencing one of these forms of headaches instead of a migraine? Here are some symptoms typically associated with each:

Symptoms of tension headaches, which account for most headaches, may include pain that is:

  • Mild to moderate intensity
  • In the back of the neck, temples, forehead, and scalp
  • Felt as pressing or tightening, such as in a tight band around the head
  • Felt on both sides of the head, and sometimes accompanied by tight feeling in the neck
  • NOT aggravated by routine physical activity

AXERT® is not indicated for tension headaches.

Cluster headache symptoms may include:

  • Severe, one–sided head pain
  • A painful, "stabbing sensation" near or behind one eye
  • Eye redness
  • Sweating forehead
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Attacks that occur from once every other day to 8 times a day
  • Pain that lasts from 15 minutes to 3 hours

Cluster headaches may occur in cycles lasting several weeks up to several months. Then, they may disappear for years before another cycle begins.

AXERT® is not indicated for cluster headaches.

To accurately determine what type of headache you’re experiencing, consult with a physician regarding your symptoms.

Triggers: Common Causes of Migraines

Although migraines tend to run in families, the mystery of this disorder has yet to be completely solved. But, there are factors—called “triggers”—that are often associated with the onset of a migraine headache. They include:

  • Certain foods or drinks, such as cheese, chocolate, citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and others), caffeine, and alcohol
  • Stress
  • Change in behavior, such as too much or too little sleep, missing a meal, or a change in diet
  • Hormonal changes in women, such as during monthly menstrual cycles

By understanding what triggers your migraine attacks, you may be able to prevent them or make them occur less frequently. One way to help determine what your triggers might be is to keep a headache diary. When you identify the triggers, you and your doctor can develop strategies that can help you avoid them.

Tips on Managing Migraines

Talk it Out. Work it Out.

Migraines don’t just affect those who suffer from them. They can impact those around you—from family to friends to colleagues. Disruption due to migraines might not be something you can prevent, but there are ways to manage migraines in order to minimize their impact. Consider trying these:

  • Tell the people who are a part of your life about your condition so that they understand it and how it affects you.
  • Work things out ahead of time so when a migraine hits, you and the people around you won't be scrambling to find a quick-fix solution.

How you treat migraines, how you communicate about them, and how you plan for them are key to living the life you want to lead. There is help for migraines—not just from medication, but also from those who care about you.


*AXERT® tablets are indicated for the acute treatment of migraine with or without aura in adults. AXERT® tablets are indicated for the acute treatment of migraine headache pain in adolescents age 12 to 17 years with a history of migraine attacks with or without aura usually lasting 4 hours or more (when untreated). In adolescents age 12-17 years, efficacy of AXERT® on migraine associated symptoms (nausea, photophobia and phonophobia) was not established.

Important Limitations

AXERT® should only be used where a clear diagnosis of migraine has been established. If a patient has no response for the first migraine attack treated with AXERT®, the diagnosis of migraine should be reconsidered before AXERT® is administered to treat any subsequent attacks. In adolescents age 12 to 17 years, efficacy of AXERT® on migraine-associated symptoms (nausea, photophobia, and phonophobia) was not established. AXERT® is not intended for the prophylactic therapy of migraine or for use in the management of hemiplegic or basilar migraine. Safety and effectiveness of AXERT® have not been established for cluster headache which is present in an older, predominantly male population.

Important Safety Information

AXERT® is a prescription medication for the acute treatment of migraine with or without aura in adults, and for the acute treatment of migraine headache pain in adolescents age 12 to 17 years with a history of migraine attacks with or without aura usually lasting 4 hours or more (when untreated). If you have no response for the first migraine attack treated with AXERT®, then your doctor will need to see if you really have migraine before you take AXERT® to treat any future attacks. You should not take AXERT® if you have heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure or have ever had heart disease. If you have risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, family history of heart attack, menopause, or are a male over 40 years of age), or if you are pregnant, nursing, or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking AXERT®. You should also tell your doctor if you have had a stroke of any type or any transient ischemic attacks, or if you have circulation (blood flow) problems, as you should not use AXERT®. Contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms of pain, tightness, pressure, or heaviness in your chest, throat, neck, or jaw, shortness of breath, weakness, or slurring of speech, if you experience abdominal pain or bloody diarrhea, or if your fingers or toes become cold or discolored. In very rare cases, serious heart problems have occurred in patients without known heart disease.

AXERT®, like other triptans, may be associated with a potentially life-threatening condition mainly when taken together with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), two classes of drugs for depression or other disorders. Common SSRIs are Celexa® (citalopram HBr), Lexapro® (escitalopram oxalate), Paxil® (paroxetine), Prozac®/Sarafem® (fluoxetine), Symbyax® (olanzapine/fluoxetine), Zoloft® (sertraline), and Luvox® (fluvoxamine). Common SNRIs are Cymbalta® (duloxetine) and Effexor® (venlafaxine). If you experience symptoms such as confusion, sweating, flushing, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, muscle weakness, poor balance, or worsening headache, contact your doctor immediately.

Some people who take migraine medicines, like AXERT®, for 10 or more days every month may have worse headaches (medication overuse headache). If your headaches get worse, your healthcare professional may decide to stop your treatment with AXERT®.

Tell your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Do not take AXERT® if you have taken an ergotamine-containing or ergot-type medication or another triptan in the last 24 hours. Do not take if you have had an allergic reaction to AXERT® or any of its ingredients. Tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to a sulfonamide drug or if you are taking ketoconazole.

The most common AXERT® side effects in adults are nausea, sleepiness, tingling sensation, headache, and dry mouth.
The most common AXERT® side effects in adolescents are dizziness, sleepiness, headache, tingling sensation, nausea and vomiting.

Ask your doctor about side effects, possible drug interactions, and any other important questions you may have before taking AXERT®.

Celexa and Lexapro are registered trademarks of Forest Laboratories. Paxil is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline. Symbyax, Prozac/Sarafem and Cymbalta are registered trademarks of Eli Lilly. Zoloft is a registered trademark of Pfizer. Luvox is a registered trademark of Solvay. Effexor is a registered trademark of Wyeth.

You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

For full U.S. Prescribing Information, click here.


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This page was last modified on October 28 2015 at 09:20:50 EST.