Migraine Without Aura

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2020 | Last updated: October 2022

There are 2 major types of migraines: migraines without aura and migraine with aura. About 3 out of 4 people who get migraines have migraine without aura. These migraines usually last from 4 hours to 3 days if left untreated.1

Migraine without aura is more common in women than in men. On average, people have their first migraine around age 25.2

What is migraine without aura?

There are 4 phases of migraine:

  • Prodrome
  • Aura
  • Head pain
  • Postdrome

People who have migraine without aura skip from phase 1, the prodrome phase, directly to phase 3, the head pain phase. Old names for migraine without aura include common migraine and hemicrania simplex.1

Symptoms of migraine without aura

The most common symptoms of migraine without aura include:1,2

Exercise or even just moving often makes the pain worse. Pain on both sides of the head is more common in children and teens than in adults.

Other names for migraine without aura

Migraine without aura may be called many other names. A few people feel migraine pain in their face rather than other parts of the head. This may be called a facial migraine.2

Many women find their migraine attacks are tied to their menstrual cycle. This may be called pure menstrual migraine or menstrually related migraine.2

People with frequent migraine attacks are said to have chronic migraines. Frequent means the person spends 15 or more days a month with head pain for 3 months or longer.2

A migraine that lasts more than 3 days is called status migrainosus.3

Diagnosing migraine without aura

Migraine without aura is diagnosed using the person’s description of their symptoms. This is why keeping a migraine diary can be so helpful in finding treatments and understanding your own triggers. The International Headache Society says that to be diagnosed with migraine without aura the person should have 5 or more attacks that have the symptoms of a migraine.1

One key difference between migraines and headaches is that a migraine can include head pain plus other symptoms, while a headache is usually just head pain. Diagnosing any type of migraine – including migraine without aura – can be hard because of the wide range of symptoms that mimic other conditions, such as stroke or seizures.

Treating migraine without aura

Migraine without aura can be treated with a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes. The treatments include:3

  • Preventive drugs that help reduce how often you have migraines and how severe the attacks are
  • Acute drugs taken at the beginning of an attack to try and reduce its severity
  • Complementary treatments to reduce stress, such as biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Learning your triggers and avoiding the ones your can, such as certain foods and drinks, not eating, or not getting enough sleep
  • Taking care of other health conditions that can trigger migraines or make them worse, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, sleep apnea, or obesity

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