Migraine and the Skin: Understanding Dermatological Symptoms Associated with Migraine

Migraine and the Skin: Understanding Dermatological Symptoms Associated with Migraine


Migraine, a neurological disorder characterized by severe headaches, is often accompanied by various symptoms that extend beyond mere head pain. One lesser-known aspect of migraine attacks is their impact on the skin. Dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks can range from mild to severe and significantly affect an individual’s quality of life. By gaining a better understanding of these symptoms and their relationship to migraine attacks, we can effectively manage and treat this complex condition.

Link between Migraine and Skin

Epidemiological evidence

Research has indicated a strong association between migraine attacks and dermatological symptoms. Studies have shown that a significant number of migraine patients also experience cutaneous manifestations. In fact, a study published in the journal Cephalalgia found that 73% of migraine patients experienced some form of dermatological symptom during their attacks.

Types of Dermatological Symptoms

Cutaneous Allodynia

Cutaneous allodynia refers to the heightened sensitivity of the skin to otherwise normal stimuli, such as light touch or pressure. It is estimated that up to 80% of migraine patients experience cutaneous allodynia during attacks. For example, even a gentle touch on the scalp or face can elicit a painful sensation. This symptom can extend beyond the headache phase and persist between attacks, further impacting an individual’s quality of life.

Facial Flushing

Facial flushing, characterized by temporary reddening of the face, is another dermatological symptom associated with migraine attacks. It is often triggered by certain factors such as stress, heat, or specific foods. For instance, some individuals experience facial flushing during or after a migraine attack, which can be accompanied by a warm or tingling sensation in the face.

Scalp Sensitivity

Many migraine patients also experience sensitivity on the scalp, which can manifest as tenderness or pain upon touch or pressure. This symptom, although localized to the scalp, is closely related to migraine attacks and can be an additional source of discomfort during an attack. Managing scalp sensitivity is an essential aspect of overall migraine management. Some individuals find relief by avoiding tight hairstyles or using gentle haircare techniques.

Changes in Skin Sensations

Migraine attacks can also cause changes in skin sensations, such as tingling, numbness, or prickling sensations. These sensations are often localized to the head and face regions, coinciding with the areas affected by migraine attacks. While the exact mechanisms behind these changes are still being studied, it is believed that the altered neural activity during a migraine attack can affect the perception of sensory signals.

Mechanisms behind Migraine-associated Skin Symptoms

Neural Sensitization

Migraine attacks can lead to neural sensitization, where the nerve fibers become hyper-responsive to stimuli. This heightened sensitivity can result in the skin becoming more susceptible to discomfort and pain during migraine attacks. The crosstalk between neural pathways and skin receptors plays a significant role in the manifestation of dermatological symptoms. For example, studies have shown that the release of certain molecules, such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), during a migraine attack can sensitize the nerve fibers, leading to increased skin sensitivity.

Vascular Changes

Migraine attacks are known to involve vascular changes, including vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) and vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). These changes can impact blood flow in the skin, potentially contributing to facial flushing and other skin-related symptoms experienced during migraine attacks. The exact mechanisms behind these vascular changes are still being investigated, but it is believed that the release of vasoactive substances, such as nitric oxide, plays a role in regulating blood flow.

Diagnosis and Management

Recognizing Dermatological Symptoms in Migraine Patients

Identifying and documenting dermatological symptoms is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. Keeping track of symptom patterns and severity can provide valuable information for healthcare providers in developing a targeted treatment plan. Patient-reported outcomes play a significant role in recognizing and addressing these symptoms. For example, keeping a migraine diary that includes details about the presence and intensity of dermatological symptoms can help both the patient and the healthcare provider better understand their relationship to migraine attacks.

Treatment Approaches

Acute Management

In managing dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks, both acute and preventive strategies are employed. Acute management involves making lifestyle changes to avoid triggers, utilizing over-the-counter pain relievers, and taking prescription medications designed specifically to alleviate migraine attacks and associated skin symptoms. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or triptans may be prescribed to relieve both the head pain and the skin symptoms during a migraine attack.

Preventive Strategies

Preventive strategies aim to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks and their associated skin symptoms. This may involve the use of specific medications that regulate neural sensitization and vascular changes. Dermatological treatments targeting skin-related symptoms are also considered in more severe cases. Ongoing research is exploring emerging therapeutic options for both acute and preventive management of migraine attacks.

Impact on Quality of Life

Psychological and Emotional Effects

The presence of chronic migraine attacks and associated dermatological symptoms can have significant psychological and emotional effects on individuals. Anxiety and depression are common comorbidities in migraine patients, and the visibility of skin symptoms can exacerbate these mental health challenges. Coping with the emotional impact of migraine attacks is essential for maintaining overall well-being. Seeking support from mental health professionals and engaging in stress-reducing activities can help individuals navigate these challenges.

Strategies for Coping and Support

Various coping mechanisms and support systems can assist individuals in managing the impact of migraine attacks and associated skin symptoms on their quality of life. Psychological counseling can provide valuable tools for managing stress and emotional well-being. Support groups and peer networks connect individuals facing similar challenges and foster a sense of understanding and solidarity. Implementing lifestyle modifications to reduce stress levels can also contribute to improved quality of life.


1. Can migraine attacks cause skin rashes?

Migraine Attacks themselves do not cause skin rashes. However, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to certain medications used to manage migraine attacks, which can result in skin rashes.

2. Do all migraine patients experience dermatological symptoms?

No, not all migraine patients experience dermatological symptoms. The prevalence of these symptoms can vary among individuals and migraine types. Some individuals may experience one or more skin-related symptoms, while others may not experience any.

3. Can facial flushing occur without a headache during a migraine attack?

Yes, facial flushing can occur without the presence of a headache during a migraine attack. It can be an isolated symptom or occur alongside other manifestations of a migraine attack.

4. Are there any specific triggers for scalp sensitivity during migraine attacks?

Triggers for scalp sensitivity during migraine attacks can vary among individuals. Common triggers include stress, tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, excessive heat, and certain hair products. Identifying and avoiding personal triggers can help manage scalp sensitivity.

5. Are there any specific medications for managing dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks?

There are no medications specifically approved for managing dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks. However, medications used to treat migraine attacks, such as triptans or anti-inflammatory drugs, can also alleviate skin-related symptoms.

6. Can dermatological treatments improve skin symptoms during migraine attacks?

In some cases, dermatological treatments may be considered to alleviate skin symptoms during migraine attacks. These can include topical creams or ointments to reduce inflammation or soothe the skin. Consulting a dermatologist can provide personalized treatment recommendations.

7. Can managing stress help improve dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks?

Yes, managing stress can help improve dermatological symptoms associated with migraine attacks. Stress is a known trigger for migraine attacks and can exacerbate skin-related symptoms. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques can be beneficial.

8. How can I effectively communicate my dermatological symptoms to my healthcare provider?

Keeping a detailed symptom diary can help you effectively communicate your dermatological symptoms to your healthcare provider. Note down the specific symptoms, their frequency, duration, and any triggers you have observed. This information can guide your healthcare provider in tailoring your treatment plan.

9. Are there any support groups or online communities for individuals with migraine attacks and skin symptoms?

Yes, there are various support groups and online communities dedicated to individuals with migraine attacks and associated skin symptoms. These platforms provide a safe space to share experiences, seek advice, and find support from others who understand the challenges of living with this condition.

10. Can migraine attacks and dermatological symptoms affect social interactions and daily activities?

Yes, migraine attacks and dermatological symptoms can significantly impact social interactions and daily activities. The discomfort and visible nature of skin symptoms can affect self-confidence and make individuals more hesitant to engage in social activities. Seeking support and employing coping strategies can help individuals navigate these challenges.


Migraine attacks can have dermatological symptoms that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the link between migraine attacks and skin symptoms, as well as the underlying mechanisms, is crucial for effective diagnosis, management, and treatment. By recognizing and addressing these dermatological symptoms, healthcare providers can provide comprehensive care and improve the overall well-being of migraine patients. Ongoing research holds promise for further advancements in treatment options and improving the lives of those affected by migraine attacks.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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