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Should I Go to the ER or Urgent Care for a Migraine? Here’s What You Should Know

A male patient with a mask sits on an exam table across from a female doctor in blue scrubs in a mask, discussing care.

This article has been medically reviewed and approved by Dr. Baez.

Migraines are the second most common type of headache and are experienced by 16 to 17% of the world’s population. Of all ailments, headaches, migraines included, are the most experienced and reported.

Out of over 150 types of headaches, most are no cause for serious concern, but some may have more severe symptoms and act as the first indicator of a more serious underlying health condition or illness.

At PVHC, we believe that knowing exactly when to worry about migraines and where to be seen for debilitating ones is essential to your overall well-being.

If you’re experiencing persistent or worsening migraines, it may be time to seek medical attention at your local urgent care center. Don’t continue to live with migraines; get treatment today.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is classified as a neurological disease that causes various symptoms, most notably a headache. It is considered a primary headache not caused by other health conditions directly.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 12% of Americans live with this disorder. Extensive research has shown that migraines are the sixth most disabling disease worldwide.

Migraine symptoms

The most common migraine symptom is a throbbing or pulsing headache that typically affects one side of the head.

For most people living with migraines, symptoms usually progress through four stages:

1.  Prodrome

This initial stage occurs 1 to 2 days before a migraine, and symptoms often include

  • mood changes
  • constipation
  • food cravings
  • a stiff neck
  • frequent urination
  • fluid retention
  • frequent yawning

2.  Aura

The aura stage can occur directly before or during a migraine episode and include reversible nervous system-related symptoms, which can include

  • vision loss
  • pins and needles in the arms and legs
  • facial numbness or weakness
  • trouble with speech
  • visual phenomena such as flashes of light or dark circles in their vision

Aura symptoms usually progress slowly and can last up to 1 hour.

3.  Migraine attack

A migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated.

Symptoms include

  • head pain that throbs or pulses
  • sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch
  • nausea and vomiting

Migraine frequency varies from person to person.

4.  Post-drome

Immediately following a migraine attack, you may experience symptoms such as

  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • head and neck pain

Migraine causes

Migraines are linked to various causes, most notably genetics. In fact, nearly 80% of those with migraines have a first-degree relative who also has the disorder.

Other migraine triggers include

  • hormonal changes
  • stress
  • smoking
  • sleep changes
  • medications
  • foods and beverages, including food additives
  • sensory stimuli, such as bright flashes of light or loud noises

Should I visit urgent care or the ER for a migraine?

Deciding between heading to urgent care or the ER for a migraine can be tricky, but we recommend basing your choice on your symptoms.

If you are experiencing nausea and vomiting, or if your migraine is lasting for several days without relief, we encourage you to stop by one of our urgent care facilities for further evaluation and treatment.

On the other hand, you should seek emergency care at the ER if you are experiencing more extreme symptoms that include

  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • weakness
  • speech difficulty
  • convulsions

It is critical to be seen at the emergency room if you believe you or a loved one is experiencing an extreme headache with migraine-like symptoms due to:

  • a stroke
  • concussion
  • severe head trauma from a direct blow to the head or neck
  • heatstroke
  • preeclampsia in pregnant women

Urgent care when you need it most

Conditions and illnesses that affect your quality of life require urgent care.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a migraine disorder or are experiencing headaches that do not improve or worsen rapidly, you should visit one of our urgent care facilities today for further diagnosis and comprehensive treatment.

No appointments are necessary; simply walk in today to receive the treatment you need now.