Signs You Might Be Having Your First Migraine

Your first migraine can be scary. Arm yourself with some basic information.

  • A migraine is defined by the quality of the pain, the severity, the duration and the location.
  • Common migraine symptoms can include nausea and/or vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light and/or sound.
  • If you suspect you’re having your first migraine, see your doctor.

Whether a longtime migraine sufferer or a newly diagnosed migraineur, you may remember the first time you experienced that specific brand of throbbing head pain — the migraine headache. And it might have been made worse by the fact that you weren’t totally sure what you were feeling. As Dr. Keri Peterson points out: “If it’s your first migraine, you probably won’t even think it’s a migraine.”


Research reveals that there could be many undiagnosed migraine sufferers out there. The American Migraine Study II, a large population-based study including nearly 30,000 individuals, revealed that although 3,738 of those surveyed met the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria for migraine headaches, only 48 percent of them had been diagnosed. 1 2


So it’s not a bad idea to arm yourself with some basic information so you can choose the right course.

Is It a Migraine?

“A migraine is defined by the quality of the pain, the severity, the duration and the location,” says Dr. Peterson. To go further: A migraine is a painful headache that can last anywhere from an hour to 72 hours. Common migraine symptoms can include nausea and/or vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light and/or sound. Migraine sufferers may also experience clamminess, light-headedness, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, as well as difficulty thinking or communicating clearly.


Still feeling confused about what a migraine is? Concentrate on the quality of the pain: “If it feels like a vice around your head, squeezing, it’s probably a tension headache,” says Dr. Peterson. “If it’s a throbbing [pain], like someone is poking you,” it could be a migraine. Consult with your doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

Next Step: See a Doctor

If you experience the symptoms of a migraine, or suspect you are having your first migraine, set up an appointment to see your doctor. In addition to getting a migraine diagnosis, your doctor can also help ensure that your problem isn’t more serious than a migraine.

There is no simple diagnostic test to determine if your headache is a migraine. Rather, during your visit, your physician will do a full headache evaluation including your headache history, a physical examination, and possibly testing to exclude other underlying diseases as a possible cause. As a first step in determining if headaches are in fact migraines, Dr. Peterson advises her patients to ask family members if they are sufferers, as migraines can be hereditary.

Migraines – The Big Picture

Dr. Peterson reassures her patients experiencing migraines for the first time that this is a manageable condition with treatment options. That may not be a comfort while you’re in the moment of pain, so Dr. Peterson suggests taking action during a migraine: “Get yourself in a dark room,” and take yourself out of any stressful situations and find a quiet place to recover, she suggests. Then, get checked out.

One thing you can do right away? Start a migraine diary. By tracking your potential migraines, plus the things you eat, do and don’t do before an attack, you can help a doctor make a diagnosis by establishing patterns and triggers.

Excedrin Migraine is indicated for those 18 and over. If you are under 18 years of age, consult a doctor before using this product. See more information about Excedrin Migraine.

Show References

Hide References

1. Lipton RB, Diamond S, Reed M, et al. Migraine diagnosis and treatment: results from the American Migraine Study II. Headache. 2001;41(7):638-645.

2. Lipton RB, Bigal ME, Diamond M, et al. Migraine prevalence, disease burden, and the need for preventive therapy. Neurology. 2007;68:343-349.



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