Atypical Migraine Symptoms

Sufferers of severe headache pain often conjecture the condition to be a “migraine,” but many do not realize that doctors differentiate between what is termed the “typical” and “atypical” form of the condition. The physician’s diagnosis of an “atypical” migraine as versus the "typical" migraine is generally made based on the lack of one or more classic symptoms. Sometimes there is even the lack of a headache itself in an atypical migraine. There are, however, symptoms that usually appear in the atypical migraine which can often be alleviated by medications, rest and proper diet and nutrition.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Facial Pain

Many patients with atypical migraines complain of facial pain ranging from mild to severe. The pain can be constant or intermittent, with it most often being most extreme around the eyes. The face can also be sensitive to touch, though sometimes alleviated by massage or the application of pressure in specific areas. If pain is present in the area of the mouth and jaw a physician should rule out issues such as a decayed or abscessed tooth and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) before making the diagnosis of an atypical migraine.

Abdominal Issues

Though head pain is most commonly associated with a migraine, abdominal issues, including cramping, are often at play. The cramping is often reported by women to be the same type of pain as experienced with menstruation. Atypical migraines often are present with this moderate cramping pain in the stomach, as well as with the more usual symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Physicians must look carefully at all issues and possibilities before definitively diagnosing an atypical migraine due to the lack of uniformity in symptoms. Atypical migraine often resembles other conditions and it can take many failed attempts at a diagnosis before a correct one is made.

Neurological Effects

An atypical migraine can often take a very scary turn that is not reported in a typical migraine. In some instances neurological effects are seen with this type of migraine which resemble those of a stroke. Occasionally an atypical migraine sufferer will experience numbness and then paralysis of an arm or even an entire side of the body. This effect most often lasts not more than a few minutes with no noticeable residual damage. Some patients also report a tingling on one side of the body that lasts for a short period of time (minutes) and then gradually abates.

Visual Disturbances

Visual disturbances are quite common with atypical migraine as well as the typical migraine. A sufferer often reports “aura" effects such as seeing rainbow-like colors in her vision. "Floaters" can also be present, which appear as black dots which float around in the patient's field of vision. Sometimes flashes of light which make zigzagging patterns occur with atypical migraines. Flashes often appear to emanate from the person’s peripheral vision. These types of issues are usually accompanied by sensitivity to light which compels sufferers to seek rest in a dark room.


The symptoms of atypical migraine can often be alleviated by bed rest in a cool, dark and quiet room and over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Many individuals report that "sleeping off" the migraine is the only way they are able to overcome an instance. A physician may need to be consulted for severe symptoms. The doctor may have to perform a variety of tests and take a complete medical history and catalog the present symptoms before arriving at a diagnosis of atypical migraine. Once the diagnosis is deemed correct, the physician is likely to treat with a medication such as a triptan, which works by balancing chemicals in the brain.