How This Helps

People who suffer from migraine headaches are well aware of just how much of a debilitating condition it is. There are many types of migraines, but the most common symptom of this condition is moderate to severe headaches.[1] Migraine is a type of neurological condition, and apart from a headache, there are several other symptoms that accompany a migraine attack. These include sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, nausea, or vomiting. 

Many people find a migraine attack being accompanied by sensory or visual disturbances. Either this happens just before a migraine starts or during a migraine attack. This is known as a migraine aura. A migraine aura usually serves as a warning sign that a migraine headache is about to start and typically involves visual disturbances that may occur in just one eye. It also ranges from seeing zigzag lines to flashing lights. Blurred vision and blind spots are also common migraine aura symptoms.[2]  According to estimates provided by the American Migraine Foundation, there is at least 25 to 30 percent of people who experience a migraine aura.[3]

What is a migraine aura?

Migraine with aura or classic migraine is a recurring headache with sensory disturbances known as "aura." The aura symptoms tend to strike at the same time or after the headache in the form of sensory disturbances. These sensory disturbances can include blind spots, flashes of light, tingling in hand or face, and other types of vision changes. In most cases, a migraine aura presents itself before the actual migraine attack starts, often serving as a warning sign to indicate that a migraine is oncoming.[4] 

The Migraine Research Foundation states that the migraine aura symptoms tend to begin over a period of 5 to 20 minutes before the migraine starts and tends to last for up to an hour.[5] However, keep in mind that not all migraine headaches involve an aura, and some people can also experience an aura without migraine. Such type of a condition in which a person experiences an aura without a migraine is known as acephalgic migraine or a silent migraine.[6]

See: Ayurveda Treatment for Migraine

Migraine aura symptoms

Migraine Aura Symptoms

Different people experience different aura symptoms. An aura headache can cause many different symptoms. Some of the most common aura symptoms include:

Aura Vision Symptoms

Visual auras are one of the most common symptoms of migraine headaches. Migraine visual aura is commonly experienced in the following ways:

·        You can experience blind spots or scotomas

·        You can experience partial vision loss

·        You can see bright spots

·        You can see jagged flashes of light or stars

·        You can see various geometric shapes in your field of vision 

·        You can see zigzagging lines in your field of vision 

·        You can also experience tunnel vision

These migraine visual aura symptoms typically begin in the center of your field of vision and then slowly move outwards. Some people may also experience blindness or temporary vision loss during a migraine with aura attack.[7]

Speech and Language Aura Symptoms

Some people also experience disruptions in their speech and language when they have a migraine with aura. Some of the common symptoms of speech and language disturbances include:

·        Mumbling

·        Slurred speech

·        Unable to form the right words

The person may find it difficult to communicate or speak with others. These speech and language aura symptoms tend to resolve by themselves once the migraine headache begins or after the headache subsides.[8]

Sensory Aura Symptoms

Migraine aura can also cause changes in your sensory perception. These sensory symptoms can take place with or without the other visual and speech symptoms. 

The most common symptoms of experiencing sensory aura include feelings of tingling. Many people report feeling 'pins and needles' sensation just before they are about to get a migraine episode.[9] 

Sometimes this pins and needles sensation may start in one hand or leg and travel upwards. The tingling sensation can also be experienced on just one side of your lips, tongue, or face.[10]

 Other Aura Symptoms

Apart from visual, speech and language, and sensory symptoms, migraine aura may also lead to the following symptoms:

·        Confusion

·        Memory changes

·        Feelings of anxiety or fear

·        In some rare cases, fainting or partial paralysis may also occur.[11]

See: Migraine diet

What Causes Migraine Aura?

What Causes Migraine Aura?

The exact causes of migraine or even a migraine aura are not clearly understood. However, it is believed that migraine aura is caused by a sudden wave of electrical impulses that spread rapidly across the brain cortex. This wave of electrical activity is then followed by a prolonged disruption or suppression of nerve activity, which is what causes several changes, including changes in blood flow. This is what is believed to cause migraine aura and other associated symptoms.[12] 

Some researchers also believe that migraine and migraine with aura run in families.[13]

In some cases, it can also be likely that a migraine aura is triggered by many of the same factors that trigger your migraine without aura. These common migraine aura triggers include:

·        Consumption of alcohol, especially wine[14,15,16]

·        Stress or anxiety

·        Lack of sleep[17] 

·        Too much of sleep[18]

·        Not having regular meals or missing your meals[19]

·        Consumption of caffeine[20]

·        Food preservatives or additives such as aspartame or monosodium glutamate (MSG)[21]

·        Hormonal changes, especially during menstruation or pregnancy[22]

·        Oral contraceptives that cause hormonal changes[23]

·        Overexertion

·        Strong or intense smells such as perfume, smoke, or gasoline

·        Vigorous exercise

·        Certain medications

·        Changes in weather

·        Certain foods such as cured meats, aged cheese, and chocolate

·        Exposure to strong sunlight or bright lights

·        Barometric pressure changes

·        Smoking[24]

See: Medical Marijuana for Migraines

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

Home remedies can help alleviate some migraine symptoms, while lifestyle changes can prevent onset. To treat a migraine with home remedies:

- Take a rest when symptoms first appear.

- Put an ice pack on the forehead or back of the throat.

- Lie down in a quiet, dark, cool room.

Lifestyle changes that may help prevent migraine symptoms include:

- practicing stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises

- adhering to a sleep routine, with the exact same bedtime and wake up time daily

- eating a balanced diet low in processed foods and food additives

- drinking plenty of water and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine

- avoiding migraine triggers, where possible, or using preventative medications before triggering events (such as weather fluctuations )

- for acute or recurrent gout episodes, it's usually best to use medical treatments alongside home care plans.

See: Botox Injections for Migraines, Cost & Side effects

Precautions

You can speak to your physician if migraine with aura doesn't completely resolve with time.

Individuals who experience symptoms of migraine with aura should visit their physician as soon as possible.

Individuals should also see a doctor if the symptoms:

- Have a direct onset

- last for more than an hour

- only happen in one eye

- Don't completely resolve with time

In these circumstances, a physician should perform tests to rule out more serious conditions.

See: Yoga asanas for migraine pain relief

Summary

Migraine with aura can be debilitating and uncomfortable, but it's not life-threatening. Trying home remedies and taking OTC drugs can help many people manage their symptoms before the headache or incident subsides. Those who experience severe or recurrent migraine headaches may require prescription drugs or medical devices to handle their symptoms and prevent future episodes. If you have never experienced migraines with aura before, and you suddenly start experiencing the symptoms of aura such as visual changes, speech and language disturbances, or sensory changes, then it is crucial that you immediately consult your doctor. Apart from being the common symptoms of migraine aura, these signs are also known as the warning signs of a stroke or heart attack. This is why it is essential to rule out the possibility of heart-related trouble when you experience these symptoms. Most people experience a migraine aura either before or during a migraine episode, and aura symptoms tend to last for an hour or less than an hour. Many people even experience an aura without a migraine headache.  It is possible to treat migraine with aura with various prescription medications. Doctors also recommend taking preventive medications to stop the migraine symptoms from beginning in the first place, along with prescribing other medicines that can help relieve the acute symptoms of migraines when they occur.

See: Migraines vs Headaches treatment

References

1. Goadsby, P.J., Lipton, R.B., and Ferrari, M.D., 2002. Migraine—current understanding and treatment. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(4), pp.257-270.

2. Rasmussen, B.K., and Olesen, J., 1992. Migraine with aura and migraine without aura: an epidemiological study. Cephalalgia, 12(4), pp.221-228.

3. Americanmigrainefoundation.org. 2020. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2020].

4. Cutrer, F.M. and Huerter, K., 2007. Migraine aura. The neurologist, 13(3), pp.118-125.

5. Migraine Research Foundation. 2020. Migraine Facts - Migraine Research Foundation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 May 2020].

6. Kunkel, R.S., 1986. Acephalgic migraine. Headache: The Journal of Head & Face Pain, 26(4), pp.198-201.

7. Queiroz, L.P., Rapoport, A.M., Weeks, R.E., Sheftell, F.D., Siegel, S.E., and Baskin, S.M., 1997. Characteristics of migraine visual aura. Headache: The Journal of Head & Face Pain, 37(3), pp.137-141.

8. Schwedt, T.J., Peplinski, J., Garcia-Filion, P., and Berisha, V., 2019. Altered speech with migraine attacks: a prospective, longitudinal study of episodic migraine without aura. Cephalalgia, 39(6), pp.722-731.

9. Jensen, K., Tfelt‐Hansen, P., Lauritzen, M., and Olesen, J., 1986. Classic migraine: a prospective recording of symptoms. Acta neurologica Scandinavica, 73(4), pp.359-362.

10. Hougaard, A., Amin, F.M., Arngrim, N., Vlachou, M., Larsen, V.A., Larsson, H.B., and Ashina, M., 2016. Sensory migraine aura is not associated with structural grey matter abnormalities. NeuroImage: Clinical, 11, pp.322-327.

11. Russell, M.B., and Ducros, A., 2011. Sporadic and familial hemiplegic migraine: pathophysiological mechanisms, clinical characteristics, diagnosis, & management. The Lancet Neurology, 10(5), pp.457-470.

12. Dalkara, T., Nozari, A., and Moskowitz, M.A., 2010. Migraine aura pathophysiology: the role of blood vessels & microembolization. The Lancet Neurology, 9(3), pp.309-317.

13. Russell, M.B., and Olesen, J., 1993. The genetics of migraine without aura & migraine with aura. Cephalalgia, 13(4), pp.245-248.

14. Nicolodi, M., and Sicuteri, F., 1999. Wine and migraine: Compatibility or incompatibility?. Drugs under experimental and clinical research, 25(2-3), pp.147-153.

15. Littlewood, J., Glover, V., Davies, P.T.G., Gibb, C., Sandler, M., and Rose, F.C., 1988. Red wine as a cause of migraine. The Lancet, 331(8585), pp.558-559.

16. Panconesi, A., 2008. Alcohol and migraine: trigger factor, consumption, mechanisms. A review. The journal of headache and pain, 9(1), p.19.

17. Inamorato, E., Minatti-Hannuch, S.N., and Zukerman, E., 1993. The role of sleep in migraine attacks. Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr, pp.429-432.

18. Engstrøm, M., Hagen, K., Bjørk, M., Gravdahl, G.B., and Sand, T., 2013. Sleep-related and non-sleep-related migraine: interictal sleep quality, arousals, and pain thresholds. The journal of headache and pain, 14(1), p.68.

19. Turner, D.P., Smitherman, T.A., Penzien, D.B., Porter, J.A., Martin, V.T., and Houle, T.T., 2014. Nighttime snacking, stress, and migraine activity. Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 21(4), pp.638-643.

20. Couturier, E.G.M., Laman, D.M., Van Duijn, M.A.J., and Van Duijn, H., 1997. Influence of caffeine & caffeine withdrawal on headache & cerebral blood flow velocities. Cephalalgia, 17(3), pp.188-190.

21. Baad‐Hansen, L., Cairns, B.E., Ernberg, M., and Svensson, P., 2009. Effect of systemic monosodium glutamate (MSG) on headache and pericranial muscle sensitivity. Cephalalgia, pp.no-no.

22. MacGregor, E.A., 1997. Menstruation, sex hormones, and migraine. Neurologic clinics, 15(1), pp.125-141.

See: Migraine Supplements

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