Migraine is a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent moderate to severe headaches often in association with a number of autonomic nervous systemsymptoms. The word derives from the Greekμικρανία (hemikrania), “pain on one side of the head”,[1] from μι- (hemi-), “half”, and κρανίον (kranion), “skull”.[2]

Typically the headache is unilateral (affecting one half of the head) and pulsating in nature, lasting from 2 to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may includenausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), phonophobia (increased sensitivity to sound) and the pain is generally aggravated by physical activity.[3] Up to one-third of people with migraine headaches perceive an aura: a transient visual, sensory, language, or motor disturbance which signals that the headache will soon occur.[3] Occasionally an aura can occur with little or no headache following it.

Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.[4] About two-thirds of cases run in families.[5] Fluctuating hormone levels may also play a role: migraine affects slightly more boys than girls before puberty, but about two to three times more women than men.[6][7]

Initial recommended management is with simple analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen for the headache, an antiemetic for the nausea, and the avoidance of triggers. Specific agents such as triptans or ergotamines may be used by those for whom simple analgesics are not effective. Globally, more than 10% of the population is affected by migraine at some point in life.


  1. ^ Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. μικρανία”. A Greek-English Lexicon. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dh%28mikrani%2Fa. on Perseus
  2. ^ Anderson, Kenneth; Anderson, Lois E.; Glanze, Walter D. (1994). Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary (4th ed.). Mosby. p. 998. ISBN978-0-8151-6111-0.
  3. ^ abcdefgh Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society (2004). “The International Classification of Headache Disorders: 2nd edition”. Cephalalgia24 (Suppl 1): 9–160. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2982.2004.00653.x. PMID 14979299. as PDF
  4. ^ abc Piane, M; Lulli, P; Farinelli, I; Simeoni, S; De Filippis, S; Patacchioli, FR; Martelletti, P (2007 Dec). “Genetics of migraine and pharmacogenomics: some considerations.”. The journal of headache and pain8 (6): 334–9. doi:10.1007/s10194-007-0427-2. PMID 18058067.
  5. ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrst Bartleson JD, Cutrer FM (May 2010). “Migraine update. Diagnosis and treatment”. Minn Med93 (5): 36–41. PMID 20572569.
  6. ^ ab Lay CL, Broner SW (May 2009). “Migraine in women”. Neurologic Clinics27 (2): 503–11. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2009.01.002. PMID 19289228.