Migraine headache without aura has at least 5 attacks of any 2 symptoms of unilateral headache that is throbbing or pulsating in nature, moderate to severe in pain and activity aggravates pain. It is accompanied with either nausea and vomiting or photophobia &/or phonophobia. The symptoms last for 4-72 hours without signs of secondary headache.
Migraine headache with aura has at least 2 attacks with any of the fully reversible symptoms of flickering lights, spots or lines &/or vision loss, sensory symptoms of pins & needles &/or numbness and dysphasic speech disturbance but without motor weakness. Accompanied by at least 2 of the following symptoms of homonymous visual symptoms &/or unilateral sensory symptoms or at least 1 aura symptoms develop gradually over ≥5 minutes &/or different aura symptoms that occur in succession over ≥5 minutes.


Diagnostic Criteria

Migraine Headache without Aura

  • At least 5 attacks with any 2 of the following headache characteristics and should last from 4-72 hours without signs of secondary headache:
    • Unilateral
    • Throbbing or pulsating in nature
    • Pain is considered moderate to severe
    • Usual physical activity (eg walking or climbing stairs) aggravates pain
  • Plus any one of the following symptoms:
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Photophobia and/or phonophobia

Migraine Headache with Aura

  • Headache with accompanying or preceding transient focal neurological symptoms
  • At least 2 attacks with ≥1 of the following fully reversible symptoms but without motor weakness:
    •  Visual symptoms including positive features (flickering lights, spots or lines) and/or negative features (loss of vision)
    • Sensory symptoms including positive features (pins and needles) and/or negative features (numbness)
    • Dysphasic speech disturbance
    • Motor
    • Brainstem
    • Retinal
  • At least 2 of the following:
    • At least 1 aura symptom develops gradually over ≥5 minutes and/or different aura symptoms that occur in succession
    • Every aura symptom lasts 5-60 minutes
    • At least 1 unilateral aura symptom
    • Headache occur with the aura or 60 minutes after the aura


Status Migrainosus

  • Usually severe and debilitating migraine headache that requires aggressive treatment
  • Often caused by medication (eg analgesic) overuse
  • Treatment may start with intravenous fluids and electrolyte replacement if indicated
  • Some patients may need hospitalization for rehydration, control of vomiting by giving antiemetics and abortive therapy
  • Abortive therapy includes parenteral triptan without ergot and/or Dihydroergotamine 8-12 hours after the lastdosage of triptan
  • Ketorolac intramuscular/intravenous or sodium valproate can be given if Dihydroergotamine or triptan is contraindicated or ineffective


  • Therapy decision is made based on severity of headache

Severity Categories


  • Patient is not completely incapacitated but daily activities are greatly hindered by headache


  • Patient’s daily activities are not performed or they are greatly altered because of headache

Status migrainosus

  • Severe headache that lasts >72 hours

Evaluation to determine if patient should receive migraine prophylactic treatment

  • When indicated, prophylactic treatment should be used in addition to acute therapy

Indication for prophylactic therapy may be based on:

  • Frequency of attacks is ≥2 per month
  • Patient feels that migraines are significantly interfering with their normal daily activities even with acute treatment lasting for >3 days per month
  • Failure and contraindication of acute therapies
  • Overuse of acute therapy, ie >2x per week
  • Adverse effects from acute therapies
  • Patient preference
  • Cost of acute therapy
  • Presence of neurologic damage from uncommon migraine types 


Initial assessment should include but is not limited to:

  • Detailed history
    • Headache characteristics (nature of pain, severity, location, frequency, duration)
    • Functional impairment
    • Accompanying symptoms
    • Past medical history
    • Family history of migraines
    • Social history
    • Medical history
  • Thorough physical and neurological examination
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