Types of Migraines

This neurological disease is not just a bad headache. Different types of migraines require different treatment. Here you will find the types or classifications of subsets, symptoms and indications of several migraine types.

Types of Migraines

Here is what you will find in this section:

• Hemiplegic Migraine 

Ocular Migraines

• Optical Migraine 

Opthalmic Migraine

• Ophthalmoplegic Migraine

• Retinal Migraine

• Status Migrainous - Severe Migraines

• Stomach Migraines in Children 

• Transformed Migraine

• Vestibular Migraine

An Important Note: With any head pain, always consult your Medical Doctor for a correct diagnosis! Never delay a visit to the hospital or your physician. Equally important is that children's migraines and headaches in children have very different symptoms than adults.

So please be aware of this fact and click on the links to read about the different symptoms!

Different Migraines Have Different Treatment Options

Many people think that migraines are simply a severe form of headache, they are not.

They are actually a completely different type of medical affliction.

As I have previously mentioned, the term migraine has been used generically to describe a bad headache.

It is a pet peeve of mine.

But the reality is that a migraine is a genetic and complex neurological disease with a very broad range of manifestations.

There are many different types of migraines that affect individuals, each one having its own cause, symptoms, and preferable treatment options. Click on this post what are migraines for more specific details.

Primary Types of Migraines

The two primary classifications of types of migraines seen in medical practices are migraine without aura (MWOA) and migraine with aura (MWA) (2).

Migraine without Aura (MWOA - aka "common" migraine) is the most common type of migraine experienced.

Without aura means there are no early warning symptoms prior to the attack. The experience begins with a dull ache, throbbing or pulsating pain sensation on one side of the head and then develops into a full blown attack.

The pain is typically accompanied by a combination of sensitivity to: light and sound; nausea and vomiting.

Migraine with Aura (MWA - aka "classic" migraine) is the second most common type experienced by approximately ¼ of us sufferers.

The aura has the same symptoms as migraine without aura but is always accompanied by early warning symptoms including: visual impairment, sensory (olfactory/smell/taste) illusion or motor skills impairment lasting hours to days (in my case) before the migraine pain phase begins.

Migraines without Aura

Types of Migraines Xray

Migraines without auras (MWOA) give us little warning and occur in 80%-85% of migraineurs.

Only hours before the attack begins, the sufferer can experience the more commonly associated symptoms listed above along with these subtle symptoms not generally well known: anxiety, depression, fatigue or unusual tiredness.

I have to remind myself that these are symptoms of an impending attack and not just me being overly emotional, which I can be from time to time.

Abdominal Migraine (MWOA)

Abdominal Migraines generally affect children. The symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and normally pass quickly.

Typically, there will be a family history of migraines and they commonly develop other types of migraines as they get older. As they pass quickly, fast acting triptans may be the best strategy.

It might be worth considering a combination of daily preventive medication and anti-nausea medications for your child to take to effectively deal with their attacks.

Status Migrainous (MWOA)

Status Migrainous is “a rare and severe type of migraine that can last 72-hours or longer”(1). Hospitalization is often required to assist with the intense pain and nausea that come with this attack.

Dilated blood vessels in the brain caused here, increase the risk of stroke substantially making treatment more focused on stopping or aborting the attack as opposed to pain reduction strategies.

Transformed Migraines (MWOA)

Attacks that become more frequent over a period of months and years are called Transformed Migraines.

Again the over use of certain medications causing rebound headaches or withdrawal symptoms, must be considered here as a factor.

Treatment most often consists of trialing new medications or exploring other new solutions.

Types of Migraines with Aura

Migraines with auras (MWA) give us a lot of warning and occur in 20%-30% of migraineurs.

An aura can occur from one hour before the attack of the pain phase and last from fifteen to sixty minutes, but mine last for days before a pain episode.

It depends who and what you read. Similar to MWOA the sufferer can experience commonly associated symptoms like: anxiety, depression, and unusual fatigue.

Acephalgic or Silent Migraine (MWA)

It is possible to have migraine symptoms without pain. Learning this surprised me, but I have now met two people who just get the zigzag lines in their vision with no pain; and another who experiences paralysis on one side of the body but no pain.

These are called Acephalgic or Silent Migraine and are terms used to describe types of migraines without pain as a symptom.

Other silent migraines include: ocular, optical, and ophthalmic. Treatments for this type of migraine vary but often: NSAIDs, triptans, and anti-nausea treatments are recommended (3).

Basilar Migraine (MWA)

This is a rare form of migraine with an aura but with no weakness or motor function loss accompanying it.

It remains uncertain whether or not the basilar artery to the back of the brain is actually involved as it is also related to hormonal changes. Hence, it seems to primarily affect young adult women (2).

The symptoms come from pressure changes around the brain stem and are more typically on both sides of the brain.

The aura symptoms that precede the headache can include: dizziness, vision and speech disturbances, loss of balance, confusion, ringing in the ears and tingling on both sides of the body.

During the attack, some people experience: temporary blindness, the inability to form words or speak properly, loss of consciousness or fainting.

These symptoms usually occur suddenly and typically last less than one hour. The pain phase that follows is then typical of a classic migraine attack (2).

Hemiplegic Migraine (MWA)

Hemiplegic Migraine is a rare and it is one of the more severe types of migraines.

The individual may develop some temporary motor paralysis (hemiplegia) and one-sided sensory or nerve disturbances in their body, like muscle weakness, immediately followed by the pain phase.

The individual might also experience some numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation. It can often resemble a stroke. The neurological symptoms disappear when the pain phase begins.

There is often family history with hemiplegic migraine and “in about 50% of these families, a chromosome defect may be found on chromosome 19 or on chromosome 1 and involves abnormal calcium channels.

A physician should be consulted for this type of headache. You should not take triptans if you have this type of headache” (2).

Ocular, Optical and Ophthalmic Migraines (MWA)

Ocular – a migraine type that has symptoms related to hearing problems,

Optical - a migraine type that has symptoms related to vision problems,

Ophthalmic - a migraine type that has symptoms related to extreme light sensitivity.

Other common symptoms include: localized pain around the ears or eyes, confusion, tingling of the skin, slurred speech, and for some, a headache.

Even though these are more rare types of migraines, the common triggers apply including stress and food reactions.

“Recommended treatments for this type of migraine include: NSAIDs, triptans, and when needed, anti-nausea treatments are advised” (3).

However, please be aware that if paralysis in the muscles around the eyes is experienced – this is considered an emergency medication condition - the compression behind the eyes, this nerve pressure, could indicate an aneurysm.

Click here for more information on Ophthalmic migraine.

Retinal Migraine (MWA)

The symptoms of Retinal Migraines are usually a localized dull ache behind one eye and other visual disturbances like: zigzag lines, twinkling lights or an extended aura around lights, blurry vision or decreased functioning in some way.

I experience temporary tunnel vision - I can see around the edges of my eye but not in the middle. So there is a circle in the middle I cannot see.

Thank goodness this is temporary. The symptoms seem to go away or are reduced when the headache actually comes on. Or maybe that’s the ice pack doing its trick.

Retinal Migraines typically occur on one side of the head, so the pain or pressure is in one eye preceding the strong pain phase of the migraine.

So, some people have warning signals, but most do not. The usual medications are recommended for this type of migraine.

Ways to Cope with Migraines

If migraines are destroying your life, I suggest finding some extra migraine support with a professional counselor to help deal with all the impacts.

My number one coping tool is my Naramig and using ice packs.

  • Have ice packs handy in the freezer.
  • Make sure you go to a trustworthy pharmacy for your medications.
  • If you don't want to take medication, I would also recommend making some lifestyle changes.
  • And start with having acupuncture regularly to see if it helps reduce the severity and or frequency of the attacks.

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Page Sources:

1. Migraine Headaches: http://women.webmd.com/guide/migraines-headaches-migraines.
2. Types of Migraines: http://www.headaches.org.
3. Migraine Types: http://www.gelstatmigraine.com/migraine-information/migraine-types.

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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?