Though commonly perceived as a type of severe headache, migraine is actually a complex and multifaceted condition that goes beyond its signature symptomatic pain. Medicine defines migraine as a syndrome, or a collection of symptoms, that results from a particular cause. The most common symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, and disturbed vision, as well as debilitating head pain. These symptoms may occur alone or in different combinations.
Migraine is an episodic condition, which means that patients typically experience symptoms as an attack. For the majority of patients, a migraine attack lasts between four and 72 hours. The type of migraine that a patient experiences depends on whether he or she experiences a pre-attack neurological aura, which most often consists of such visual disturbances as flashing lights, blind spots, or tunnel vision. Though migraine with aura is significantly less common than migraine without aura, which affects up to 90 percent of sufferers, there are approximately seven more rare varieties subject to diagnosis.