Is migraine with aura a distinct type of migraine? Just one phase of a migraine attack? Who experiences aura symptoms? Join us as we break down what you need to know about migraine with aura.
Doctors and patients alike have been fascinated and puzzled by how migraine and aura go hand in hand. In fact, when diagnosing an individual with migraine, people may fall into the category of migraine with aura or migraine without aura, or both. Often described as a “warning sign,” the aura stage of migraine is unique because it is only experienced by 25 to 30% of people with migraine.
What Is Migraine Aura?
Aura is a series of sensory disturbances or disruptions to language that usually happen shortly before a migraine attack. These disturbances range from seeing sparks, bright dots, and zig zags to tingling on one side of the body or an inability to speak clearly. This period usually lasts 5-60 minutes, and the specific symptoms of aura often change and evolve during that time. Migraine aura is of particular interest to doctors and researchers, as it doesn’t affect every person with migraine and it generally doesn’t occur during every migraine attack.
Types of Migraine With Aura
Because of the varying types and intensity levels of sensory changes that may be involved, migraine aura can be alarming to experience. Determining what type of migraine you have can help you better understand what symptoms—including aura—to expect throughout the progression of an attack. This can also be invaluable information to share with your doctor.
Migraine with aura may present as several different types, including:
- Speech and/or language
- Motor (aka hemiplegic migraine)
- Migraine with brainstem aura
- Retinal migraine
What Are the Symptoms of Migraine Aura?
People who are in the aura phase of migraine may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Vision Disturbances – Seeing spots, flashes, zig zags, stars, or even losing sight for short periods of time. (Of those who experience migraine with aura, about 90% will experience visual aura.)
- Sensory Changes – Feeling tingling or numbness in the face, body, hands, and fingers.
- Speech or Language Problems – Unable to produce the right words, slurring or mumbling words.
Can You Treat Migraine Aura?
Treating migraine with aura may consist of a combination of acute and preventative medication. However, according to Dr. Todd Schwedt, if your symptoms have an immediate onset, last longer than 60 minutes or do not completely resolve, medical attention is required. Additionally, if you experience additional symptoms, such as weakness on one side of the body, changes in consciousness or level of alertness, it’s time to see a doctor.
Women who experience migraine with aura may be at a higher risk of stroke. For this reason, it’s important to discuss other stroke risk factors and ways to minimize your stroke risk with your physician.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.