When we hear the word migraine, a few common symptoms might come to mind: throbbing head pain, loss of vision, sensitivity to light, nausea. While these symptoms sound extreme, many of them are unfortunately the norm for many migraine sufferers.1
But can migraines cause fever? Another symptom that many associate with various illnesses and conditions is fever. The short answer to the question, “Do migraines cause fever?” is it’s rare, though it can happen.2 The connection between migraine and fever is more complicated than a simple yes or no answer. Below, we’ll investigate the connection between migraine headaches and fevers and discuss how and when a migraine might cause a fever.
Common migraine symptoms
Migraine symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common sign that you’re dealing with a migraine is a headache.1,2 Migraine headache pain is often characterized as pulsing or throbbing. It can be localized on one side of the head or occur on both sides.1,2 Migraine head pain may start out as a dull ache that becomes more and more severe when left untreated.1 Migraine head pain can be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and/or touch.1,2
In addition to the tell-tale migraine headache, migraine symptoms may also include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, sweating and chills, a feeling of tiredness, blurred vision, pallor, a tender scalp, and rarely, fever.2 While migraines can cause fever, the appearance of a fever during a migraine is rare and typically only occurs during severe episodes.2,3,4 In the next sections, we’ll discuss two specific types of migraines that can cause fevers during particularly severe episodes.
Familial hemiplegic migraine
Familial hemiplegic migraine, also referred to as “hemiplegic-ophthalmoplegic migraine,” is a type of recurrent migraine that is genetically inherited.3 Like the common migraine, familiar hemiplegic migraines typically present as a throbbing headache that may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.3 Familial hemiplegic migraines often start during childhood or adolescence. Like some other types of migraines, a familial hemiplegic migraine attack may be preceded by an aura with visual symptoms like double vision, blind spots, flashing lights, and zig-zagging lines.3 The aura stage of a familial hemiplegic migraine can also be accompanied by weakness or numbness on one side of the body.3
During severe episodes of familial hemiplegic migraines, some people have reported extreme symptoms including fever.3 However, it’s important to note that familial hemiplegic migraines only cause fever during unusually severe cases and fever is not a common symptom of every familial hemiplegic migraine.3
Sporadic hemiplegic migraine
A second type of migraine that lists fever as a symptom in severe cases is the sporadic hemiplegic migraine.4 Unlike familial hemiplegic migraine, sporadic hemiplegic migraine is not a condition that runs in the family.4 While sporadic hemiplegic migraines are rare, they have many of the same symptoms as the common migraine: throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Like some other types of migraines, an aura may occur before a sporadic hemiplegic migraine attack.4 The aura symptoms of a sporadic hemiplegic migraine are the same as a familial hemiplegic migraine: changes in vision like double vision, blind spots, flashing lights, and zig-zagging lines, as well as weakness or numbness on one side of the body.4 During severe episodes of sporadic hemiplegic migraines, a person may experience a fever, along with other extreme symptoms. As with familial hemiplegic migraines, though, fever is a migraine symptom only during very severe episodes.4
Why else might my headache be accompanied by a fever?
Migraine headaches often get mistaken for sinus headaches, particularly in cases of self-diagnosis.5 A sinus headache is a headache often associated with sinusitis, which changes pressure levels in the sinuses and can cause a headache.6 Sinus headaches are more commonly accompanied by fever than migraines, in addition to other cold-like symptoms like cough, sore throat, and fatigue.5,6 Some identifying factors of a sinus headache include the following:7
- Steady pain, mild to moderate severity
- Pain in the face, at the bridge of the nose or cheeks
While migraines can cause fever in rare cases, sinus headaches are the type of headache more commonly accompanied by fever.
When should I see a doctor?
A migraine that’s accompanied by a fever can be indicative of a more serious issue, so it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you believe you have a fever caused by a migraine.1,7 In addition to seeking medical attention for a headache with fever, headaches that are accompanied by confusion or loss of consciousness, headaches that feel like being hit on the head, headaches accompanied by pain in the eye or ear, or a worsening headache after a head injury also require immediate medical attention.1,7
We hope this guide has helped you better understand the connection between migraines and fever. For more information on migraines, check out our resources on migraine causes, migraine prevention, and migraine treatment.