Complications of migraine headaches may include gastrointestinal conditions and worsening or prolonged headaches. In rare cases, you may experience life threatening complications like stroke.

Migraine is a condition that causes severe headaches often associated with other symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell.

Migraine headaches usually don’t worsen over time, but they can lead to more serious complications.

The International Headache Society created a system for classifying headache disorders, migraine, and their complications. This is known as the International Classification of Head Disorders, 3rd edition (ICHD-3).

Read on to learn more about the potential complications of migraine headaches and taking migraine medications.

This is a rare and severe type of migraine headache that lasts for longer than 72 hours.

Status migrainosus may occur with or without migraine aura, which refers to symptoms that affect your vision, sensation, or speech.

Treatment for status migrainosus may include a combination of pain relievers. However, these don’t always help. Some people have been hospitalized due to the intense pain.

This type of migraine is associated with stroke.

Typically, migrainous infarction is a migraine headache with aura symptoms that last more than 1 hour.

Sometimes, however, the aura is present when the headache disappears. This may be a sign of bleeding in the brain, which could be life threatening.

If you have a migraine with an aura that lasts more than 1 hour, get immediate medical attention.

This complication arises if a migraine aura lasts longer than 1 week after a headache has ended, but there’s no sign of stroke-like bleeding in the brain.

If you experience aura symptoms after your headache has ended, get immediate medical attention. A healthcare professional can provide a proper diagnosis.

Learn more about how to tell the difference between migraine and stroke.

Migralepsy, also known as migraine aura-triggered seizure, occurs when you experience an epileptic seizure during or within 1 hour of a migraine with aura.

Learn more about the link between migraine and seizures.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is cut off or blocked by a blood clot or fatty material in your arteries.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, people who have migraine with aura have twice the risk of having a stroke. Your risk of stroke is also higher if you have migraine and take oral contraceptives.

The reasons for these risks are not fully understood.

Learn more about the connection between migraine and stroke.

Sometimes, migraine is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur during or after migraine headaches.

Abdominal migraine is when you experience at least 5 episodes of abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting during the month and don’t have a gastrointestinal condition. Episodes of abdominal pain may last between 2 and 72 hours.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is when you experience intense nausea and vomiting for periods lasting between 1 hour and 10 days. These usually happen in a predictable pattern.

For both complications, symptoms completely subside after the episode.

Speak with a healthcare professional if you have migraine and experience gastrointestinal symptoms.

Some children may experience brief bouts of vertigo if they also have migraine headaches.

These may occur randomly and stop within minutes or hours.

Benign paroxysmal vertigo often occurs alongside one or more of the following symptoms:

Learn more about migraine in children.

Continual, long-term use of some migraine medications may cause medication overuse headaches, also known as a rebound headache.

You may experience a new type of headache, or the migraine headaches you currently experience may worsen. Medication overuse headache is when you experience these headaches 15 or more days per month.

If you need to use acute migraine drugs more than 10 days per month, speak with a healthcare professional. They may suggest other treatments, such as preventive medications.

However, some migraine medications contain caffeine. Overuse and potential withdrawal may lead to a “caffeine headache,” compounding your migraine.

Medication overuse headaches typically go away once you stop taking the pain medication, but it’s important to speak with a doctor before making any changes to your medication regimens.

Serotonin is a chemical in your nervous system associated with the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep.

Serotonin syndrome is a rare condition caused by too much serotonin in your brain. Taking a combination of certain migraine medications, such as triptans and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may cause serotonin levels to rise.

Symptoms may include:

If you experience any of these symptoms within a few hours of taking a new medication or a higher dose, get immediate medical attention. If left untreated, serotonin syndrome could be life threatening.

Treatment for migraine will depend on several factors, such as the type, frequency, and intensity of your migraine headaches.

Treatment may include a combination of:

Keeping a migraine journal could help you identify specific triggers and instances when you get a migraine.

Learn more about natural remedies and medications to help manage migraine headaches.

Can migraine headaches lead to something serious?

Yes, in rare cases, migraine headaches may lead to seizures, stroke, and more severe migraine headaches. Some migraine medications may also lead to serotonin syndrome, which could be life threatening.

What are the neurological complications of migraine?

Some neurological complications of migraine include status migrainosus, migrainous infarction, benign paroxysmal vertigo, and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

What are the risks of untreated migraine?

In rare cases, a migraine headache with aura symptoms that lasts longer than 1 hour may be a sign of stroke.

Although there are complications associated with migraine headaches and treatments, there are ways to help manage and prevent them.

Speak with a healthcare professional if your migraine symptoms worsen or you begin to experience new symptoms. They can help modify or develop a new treatment plan for you.