One of the things that makes a Migraine different than an ordinary headache is that a Migraine has phases. Over the next few weeks, I want to take an indepth look at each phase of a Migraine. Today we will be looking at the Aura phase of a Migraine.
What is an Aura?
A Migraine Aura is a set symptoms that include the most common visual symptoms but can also include sensory and language disturbances. According to the American Migraine Foundation, “Up to one-third of people with migraine experience aura as a distinct phase in the progression of their migraine attack.”
What is a Visual Aura?
According to Mayo.com, the visual symptoms are:
- an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the visual cortex of your brain.
- The best known visual symptom is called a fortification spectrum because its pattern resembles the walls of a medieval fort. It may start as a small hole of light or sometimes as bright geometrical lines and shapes in your visual field. This visual aura may expand into a sickle- or C-shaped object, with zigzag lines on the leading edge. As it moves, it may appear to grow.
- May experience bright spots or flashes. Auras are sometimes accompanied by a partial loss of vision referred to as a scotoma.
- Visual Aura commonly last 10 to 30 minutes.
What is a Sensory Aura?
Sensory symptoms will most likely will happen along with the visual auras. Migraine.com describes it as:
- Usually begins as a tingling in one limb or a feeling of numbness that travels up your arm
- Can spread to one side of your face and tongue.
- Usually lasts a few minutes up to an hour on average.
- Just over one-tenth of migraine sufferers complain of sensory aura.
- The most common sensory symptoms include numbness, tingling and other “odd” sensations in the limbs, face or throughout the body.
- Easy to mistake for other, more serious ailments such as stroke, transient ischemic attack or a partial seizure
- Weakness on one side of the body may also suggest Hemiplegic Migraine.
What is a Verbal Aura?
This is commonly called Dysphasic Aura or Transient Aphasia. The National Aphasia Association defines aphasia as, “an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech.” Although aphasia is generally permanent, transient aphasia is temporary and is the type that accompanies migraines. You can read more about this type of Aura in a post that was I published recently.
Other Things You May not Know:
- Usually precedes the migraine episode but can continue during the episode
- Can also occur without an associated headache, this is called a Silent Migraine.
- Can happen up to 2 days before a Migraine episode.
- If it lasts longer than an hour increase your risk for stroke and other serious complications.
An aura is an event that happens after the Prodrome Migraine Phase but it can continue as the migraine progresses. This can include visual, sensory and verbal symptoms that can present in different ways. These are generally a good way to predict a coming migraine so that treatment can begin before the headache phase begins.
If you have migraines and at anytime experience a new symptom, you should seek immediate medical attention. It could indicate something more serious is taking place.
Do not downplay or rationalize any new symptoms.
Read about the other Migraine Phases
- Migraine Explained: Prodrome
- Migraine Explained: Aura
- Migraine Explained: Headache Phase
- Migraine Explained: Postdrome Phase
Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information and first hand accounts about a serious medical condition. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice.