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:
- Migraine Explained: Cognitive Dysfunction
- Migraine Explained: Migraine Triggers
- Migraine Explained: Season Change
- Migraine Explained: Allodynia
- Migraine Explained: Status Migrainosus
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.