Transient Aphasia - When the Words won't come
Hemiplegic Migraine,  Migraine Explained

Migraine Explained: Transient Aphasia

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One of the most annoying symptoms that I have during my Hemiplegic Migraine episodes is 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.

What is it like to have Transient Aphasia?

Most importantly, I know what I want to say but when I try to say the words everything sounds garbled, slurred and unrecognizable. It sounds like I am talking a foreign language that doesn’t exist. It is very frustrating to have the words and to be unable to get them out correctly.

Fortunately, I am able to spell at least enough to get my point across. That is not always the case though. Often, people that have Transient Aphasia with their Migraine Episodes will not be able to talk or write correctly. I am thankful that I am not a part of that club.

What Migraine Types Might Cause Transient Aphasia?

Certain types of Migraine, specifically Migraine with Aura, Complex Migraine and Migraine with Brainstem Aura, can also include aphasia symptoms.

The type of Migraine that I have, Hemiplegic Migraine, is a sub-type of Migraine with Aura. It causes temporary paralysis on one side of the body prior to or during a migraine. Symptoms such as vertigo, a pricking or stabbing sensation, and problems seeing, speaking, or swallowing may begin prior to the pain and will typically stop within 15 to 30 minutes after onset of the migraine.  This type of speech issue is what is defined as Transient Aphasia.

When Transient Aphasia Becomes a Safety Issue

About a year ago, I went downstairs to get something to eat. While I was in the kitchen I began having a Hemiplegic Migraine Episode. Because my vision is very distorted during these episodes it is difficult to see. With the transient aphasia symptoms also occurring, I could not simply ask Siri to call my husband. I couldn’t see my screen so I could not call him and my rescue medication was upstairs (an issue that has been planned for and remedied).

So, I tried to go upstairs even though my vision was really dark and I had no depth persecution. To make a long story short, I fell while trying to go up the stairs. I was ok but I had to lay there until my vision corrected just enough to text my husband to come home. This is just one example of when the Transient Aphasia has become a safety issue for me.

How to Make Things Better

The first thing I did was learn to sign Thank You and I’m Sorry, Since I only have use of 1 hand, using sign language completely isn’t really possible but I can at least let my husband or my daughter know that I appreciate how they are taking care of me.

I now have an app on my phone that will allow me to text my husband with 2 taps on my screen. I know exactly where the app is located without looking at it and I know where I need to send the text. It has come in very handy several times. The name of that App us SOSOneClick and it allows you to customize the text that are sent. This is definitely one of the safeguards in my “migraine toolbox”.  To download this free app on iTunes click HERE.  At this time it is not available for Android but I am sure there are apps out there on that platform as well.

More than a Headache

I am sure that by now you are realizing that a Migraine is much more that just a bad headache. Paralysis, aphasia, vertigo, vision issues, blindness and other severe symptoms can come before a headache hits (if it hits at all, called a silent migraine). All of these symptoms can cause temporary cognitive delays called brain fog.

So the next time a friend or coworker says they had a migraine, don’t just imagine a bad headache. Realize that what they have experienced might be much more severe than that.

Other Topics of Interest:

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Transient Aphasia - When the Words won't come
Transient Aphasia and Migraine

Disclaimer: This blog post pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and my 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.


  • Emily

    I’ve had migraines all my life, and I had no idea that this could be a symptom! That would be horrible to be in pain and not be able to communicate, too! I’m glad you have found ways to cope!

  • Andrea

    I know so many people who suffer from migraines, but I didn’t realize a migraine had other effects besides horrible pain. I’m so sorry that you have to suffer through this, but I’m glad you’ve found some remedies to help you when an episode hits.

  • Jordan

    Oh, wow! I have had migraines for several years now (following a car accident when I was a teenager), but I have never experienced anything like this. How terrible to have these additional symptoms on top of the pain of a migraine. I’m so sorry! Thank you for sharing, though–I had never heard of this before.

  • Sarah Althouse

    WOW! I had never heard of TA before. I cant’ imagine but it sounds terrible. I do get migraines from time to time but will definitely be more sympathetic to other peoples too.

  • Pspud

    I had an older sister with very severe headaches I knew to be migraine . While I was in Med School she had a strange hemiplegic attack with aphasia that I thought was a stroke until it disappeared in a brief span . I researched it to better understand . When in later life I while waiting for my wife to see the doctor I started to talk to her and my words came out as pure gibberish . I walked around for several minutes and then everything came back to normal . I thought I might have had a minor stroke. A few weeks later, sitting at the piano I realized I could no longer translate the notes on the sheet , Within minutes things were normal. Many doctors are ignorant of how protean Migraine is . I know only too well having experienced it . I hope your article is widely rfead..

  • Nikki - Notes of Life

    Very interesting. I get brain fog with my chronic fatigue. My speech can get a little muddled too… Words not coming out right or disappearing. I can be mid way through telling someone something and either forget a word (but I’ll generally be able to describe that word) or worse, I’ll not have a clue what I was saying. Slurred speech will happen if I’m particularly tired in a morning.

    It must be quite frightening having a migraine like that though.

  • Kate

    Technology has some disadvantages, but when I read about an app that allows you to ask for help with just two taps, I’m amazed.

    I’m realizing now that I had no idea what actual migraines were before I ‘met’ you. A lot of people use ‘headache’ and ‘migraine’ interchangeably, but they are worlds apart!

    Hopefully medecine finds a way to alleviate those horrible symptoms someday soon.

  • Baby Boomer Super Saver

    So glad I came across your post, I didn’t know about the connection between migraines and aphasia. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m sure it will be helpful for someone else in a similar situation. You’ve listed some good coping strategies.

  • MsTee

    This is great information. I have migraines but have never heard of this. My worst symptoms have been extreme vertigo where I’m unable to function because the world around me is just spinning. It’s good you have some safeguards in place.

  • Jennifer

    Sounds frightening Jen. I get sleep paralysis sometime and it terrifies me, can’t imagine what it must be like to be fully conscious and not in control of our speech! Great post though to get it out there so others know how they can help

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