Migraine vs. Brain Aneurysm

by | Oct 30, 2023

Explore the similarities and differences between migraines and brain aneurysms. Learn about the common symptoms and how to differentiate between these two conditions that have confused patients and to help them make more informed health choices.

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Migraine vs. Brain Aneurysm 

People can sometimes mistake a brain aneurysm for a migraine because the symptoms of these two conditions can overlap, making it difficult to differentiate between them. Here are some reasons why this confusion can occur and mislead patients. 

  • Headache as a common symptom: Both migraines and brain aneurysms can cause severe headaches. A sudden, severe headache can be a common symptom of a ruptured brain aneurysm, and migraines are also known for causing intense headaches.
  • Aura: Some migraines are accompanied by visual disturbances known as auras, which can include flashing lights or blind spots. These visual symptoms can be mistaken for signs of a neurological issue, including a brain aneurysm.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Both migraines and brain aneurysms can cause nausea and vomiting as secondary symptoms, making it challenging to distinguish between the two based solely on these symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound: Light and sound sensitivity, known as photophobia and phonophobia, respectively, can be associated with both migraines and certain types of brain aneurysms.
  • Family history: If a person has a family history of migraines, they may be more inclined to attribute their symptoms to a migraine rather than consider a brain aneurysm.
  • Lack of awareness: Many people are not well-informed about the symptoms of brain aneurysms, and they may not recognize the signs of a potentially life-threatening condition. This lack of awareness can lead to a delay in seeking medical attention.

It’s important to note that while some symptoms can overlap, there are also significant differences between migraines and brain aneurysms. Brain aneurysms, especially when they rupture, can lead to more severe and sudden symptoms, including a “thunderclap” headache, loss of consciousness, seizures, and neurological deficits. If someone experiences an unusually severe headache or any of these other concerning symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention, as a brain aneurysm may be life-threatening and require urgent intervention.


What is a Migraine?

Migraines are throbbing headaches that are often one-sided and accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be triggered by certain foods, hormonal changes, stress, and other factors.Although it is hereditary and more common in women, people experience migraines differently and this kind of headache is characterized by throbbing pain. Migraine sufferers experience nausea, vomiting, light, and sound sensitivity. It may even stop you from doing daily tasks and activities.

There are several categories of primary headaches and secondary headaches. The most common primary headaches are migraine, cluster, and tension headaches whereas secondary headaches include tumors. Read more in our blog post that explores “Headache Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment”

What is a Brain Aneurysm Headache?

You can experience painful, chronic headaches even with unruptured brain aneurysms that are not as severe, especially small ones. These headaches can happen anywhere in the brain, but most form in the major arteries along the base of the skull and typically affect one side of the head. They are moderately severe lasting from minutes to even days. 

On the other hand, some people can have “thunderclap headaches” where they describe it as the most painful headache of their lives from a ruptured brain aneurysm that is one of the most severe medical emergencies. The resultant bleeding causes significant damage to the brain and even fatalities. A ruptured brain aneurysm has been likened to being hit on the head with a blunt object, resulting in sudden agonizing pain. Large volumes of blood leak into the brain bringing on an extremely severe headache. A large ruptured brain aneurysm headache is extremely severe lasting for at least one minute until successful treatment. Recognizing the difference between potentially dangerous headaches and the common primary and secondary categories of headaches is important in ensuring the well-being of yourself or a loved one. Find out more in-depth in our article “Is My Headache a Brain Aneurysm?” if similar questions race through your mind. 

Did you know that there are over 150 types of headaches? The most common include tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Headaches can also sometimes result from underlying medical conditions like strokesbrain aneurysms, or infections. Learn when it is time to worry about a headache, the different certain types, and the warning signs of each in our article.

Key Similarities and Differences Between Migraine and Brain Aneurysm 


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light 

Key differences

  • A ruptured brain aneurysm’s pain is more severe than a migraine’s. Aneurysm pain is often described as the worst headache of a person’s life.
  • A ruptured brain aneurysm headache typically occurs suddenly, while migraine headaches usually occur gradually.
  • Ruptured brain aneurysms always require emergency treatment, while migraines rarely require emergency medical attention.

Call 9-9-5 immediately if you or a loved one is experiencing brain aneurysm symptoms. Not all symptoms may be present simultaneously but these brain aneurysm warning signs and symptoms are the most common. 

Associated Symptoms of Migraines

  • Recurrent headaches that last for between four and 72 hours
  • One-sided pulsating pain
  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sweating or cold hands
  • Pain from a touch of pressure

Associated Symptoms of Brain Aneurysm Headaches

  • Blinding headache

  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Neck pain or stiff neck
  • Sudden confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Weakness in some limbs or one side of the body

    Is My Headache a Brain Aneurysm?

    Recognizing the difference between potentially dangerous headaches and common ones is important in ensuring the well-being of yourself or a loved one. A brain aneurysm headache, for instance, isn’t your typical headache. Learn the serious headaches that may require medical attention.

    Undergo Brain Aneurysm Screening and Treatment in Singapore

    To assess and diagnose a possible brain aneurysm in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja conducts a CT scan (computed tomography) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to obtain detailed images of your brain’s blood vessels and structures. Learn more in detail about brain aneurysm screening and diagnosis in our other article “Brain Aneurysm MRI and CT Scans”.

    Seek Medical Assistance at the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic

    Headaches and migraines are an unfortunate part of our lives that we can’t escape and may be a precursor to a ruptured brain aneurysm. While most pains are mild to moderate in severity and can be tackled with over-the-counter medications, others are life-threatening. Understanding how to differentiate between migraines and brain aneurysm is the first step to getting the ideal treatment you require. We provide brain aneurysm care and treatments at our specialized brain aneurysm clinic at Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic in Singapore. Find answers to commonly asked brain aneurysm and stroke questions from our patients with Dr. Manish Taneja.

    Consult a Seasoned Brain Aneurysm Specialist

    If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a brain aneurysm, seek immediate medical assistance from the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic. Our brain aneurysm clinic and specialist based in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja provides  comprehensive management of complex multisystem surgical and medical conditions. Contact us today to fill in and submit contact information and inquiry details.

    Dr. Manish, a certified neurointervention specialist, has extensive experience treating headaches and brain aneurysms. He can provide expert guidance regarding treatment options considering your specific migraine. Come in for a further evaluation.

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    Brain Aneurysm Resources

    Discover brain aneurysm resources that go beyond the basics designed for patients. Understand the meaning of  a brain aneurysm condition, the causes, symptoms, signs, and more. Connect with your brain health.

    Put Brain Aneurysm on Your Health Radar

    Did you experience the worst headache of your life? Could it be a brain aneurysm that ruptures, which means bleeding in the brain? Thoughts could be racing through your mind. Then what is the difference between unruptured (a weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that balloons) or ruptured brain aneurysm? If you’re wondering, then the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is here to help. It’s important to look out for the tell-tale brain aneurysm symptoms, signs, causes, and risk factors.

    Dr. Manish Taneja has been performing brain aneurysm treatments since 1995 from surgical clipping to latest minimally invasive procedures. Each patient is unique as is the size and location of the aneurysm. Your brain has different conditions to treat the aneurysm and artery vessel walls of a blood vessel in the brain. This calls for personalised brain aneurysm treatment depending on your symptoms, family, history, medication, and more. A simple CT scan could be just what the doctor ordered and the first step in early detection and prevention of a brain aneurysm. Come in for an easy consultation with our brain aneurysm specialist in Singapore to be on your health radar.

    Other Health Conditions

    The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and treatments. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our neurointervention specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.