Migraine aura: A question that many migraine patients have about chronic headaches is whether or not experiencing an aura (flashing lights) is important for diagnosing migraine disorder. There are many different types of migraines, and they can vary for each individual…and for each migraine headache episode.
According to the International Headache Society (HIS) Classification System, migraines are primary headaches. Other primary headaches include tension-type headaches and cluster headaches.
Classifications for migraine headaches include migraines with aura, migraines without aura, migraines without headaches, childhood migraines, and so forth.
To define which type of migraine you have, it’s important to take into account all the various symptoms you experience, such as nausea, headaches, neck soreness, eye sensitivity, stomachaches, vomiting, diarrhea, mood swings, visual disturbances, speech slurring, vertigo, and extreme crushing fatigue.
Anatomy of a migraine attack
There are four main phases that occur when you have a migraine attack. They include:
- Prodrome- unusual cravings, loss of appetite, excitability, fatigue, thirst; these happen about one day earlier.
- Aura- migraine aura phase (see below)
- Migraine headache
- Postdrome- migraine hangover, recuperation following migraine attack
Approximately one-third of all migraine patients experience the aura phase of a migraine attack. This is a set of symptoms that develops gradually minutes before a migraine strikes and can last as long as one hour. Sometimes, migraine aura occurs without headache, and ends with a feeling of hangover.
To diagnose migraine with aura, you would have to have experienced at least one of the following symptoms minutes before a migraine attack, at least twice that you can remember. Symptoms are temporary, and cannot be attributed to any other underlying health problems.
- Flashing bright lights
- Oscillating arc image
- Zig-zagging line
- Light specks that flicker
- Temporary loss of peripheral vision
- Dark void in vision
- Double or blurred vision
- Hallucinatory scents
- Distorted spatial awareness
- Faces appear grossly large or small
- Loss of sense of time passing
- Loss of consciousness
- Partial paralysis
- Dysarthria speech distortion
- Apraxia- paralyzed speech
- Numbness in tongue
Migraines with aura
Migraines without aura follow the prodrome phase, as opposed to an aura phase. A migraine without aura can be just as debilitating as a migraine with aura, and can last for hours or days.
If you experience migraines without the aura, don’t hesitate to ask your physician to refer you to a migraine headache specialist.
Migraine abortive medications, preventatives, and pain treatments are often prescribed, in addition to migraine trigger avoidance.
Some helpful natural supplements for migraines are butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10.