Migraine with aura (also called classic migraine) is repeated episodes of headache that occur during or after sensory disturbances (aura or migraine aura). These disturbances may include symptoms such as flashes of light, blind spots, and other vision changes or tingling over the hand or face. Migraine aura is not in itself dangerous; however, the symptoms of migraine aura can sometimes look and feel like other serious conditions such as a stroke. It is advisable to consult a doctor to rule out anything serious. Triggers and treatment of migraine with aura and migraine without aura are usually the same.
Migraine is a type of headache characterized by intense throbbing pain in the head or behind the eyes. Throbbing pain or pulsing sensation usually begins on one side of the head, in the forehead, or around the eyes. Headache is aggravated by sudden movement, physical activity, loud noise, or bright light. Migraine may occur once or twice a month or every day (chronic) and is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, giddiness, or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine pain normally lasts from 4 hours to 3 days and could be so severe that it may interfere with routine activities. The triggers, site of headache, severity, associated symptoms duration, and frequency of migraine episodes can vary from person to person. The symptoms of migraine aura also can vary from person to person. Migraines have a strong genetic predisposition and are usually more common in women than in men.
What is migraine aura?
Migraine aura is a series of sensory disturbances that often occur shortly before a migraine attack or may sometimes occur during or after the migraine attack.
Migraine auras are reversible symptoms of the nervous system. They occur in the form of visual and physical disturbances or sensations. These disturbances range from seeing bright dots, sparks, and patterns to muscle weakness, tingling on one side of the body, or inability to speak clearly and usually lasts for about 20-60 minutes.
Migraine aura does not occur with every migraine attack, and it may not affect every person. Sometimes, aura may occur without a headache. Although migraine pain does not occur, the aura symptoms can still be disruptive to daily activities.
They may be a result of certain chemical imbalances in the brain that occur during a migraine attack.
What are the signs and symptoms of migraine aura?
Those who have migraine aura may experience a range of symptoms including:
- Visual disturbances such as seeing flashes of light, bright spots, sparkles, or stars
- Temporary vision loss or changes in vision
- Blind spots in the field of eyesight
- Tunnel vision
- Zigzag lines in vision
- Vertigo (a feeling of spinning)
- Weakness or numbness in the face
- Muscle weakness or tingling on one side of the body
- Prickly or burning sensations in an arm or leg
- Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
- Difficulty in speaking
- Slurred speech
- Unable to form right words
- Confusion and difficulty in understanding
- Depressed, irritable, and restless
- Ringing in the ears, hearing noises, or music
What causes a migraine and migraine aura?
Several brain chemicals play a role in causing migraines. A migraine with aura can be triggered by the same things that can trigger migraine attacks without aura. These include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Insufficient sleep
- Irregular meals
- Red wine or alcohol
- Certain foods such as cheese, chocolate, or cured meats
- Ice-cream or cold foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food additives or preservatives such as nitrates, nitrites, and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hormonal changes
- Certain medications
- Birth control pills and hormone therapy
- Bright lights, strong smell, or loud noises
- Vigorous exercise
- Changes in the weather
- Altitude or air pressure changes
What is the treatment of a migraine and migraine aura?
Treatments for a migraine with aura and migraine without aura usually involve the same medications and self-care measures. They include:
- Placing a cold compression on the forehead or the back of the neck
- Moving into a dark quiet room and resting
- Reducing emotional triggers such as stress, anxiety, and depression
- Reducing physical triggers such as fatigue
- Medications for both prevention and relief of symptoms
Medications for relieving symptoms that reduce the severity of a migraine attack include:
- Pain killers including acetaminophen
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Triptans reverses chemical changes in the brain that cause migraines
- Anti-emetics that relieve nausea and vomiting
- Devices that assist transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and vagus nerve stimulation helps relieve pain
- Preventive medications that stop migraine attacks from occurring include anti-seizure drugs such as Topomax (topiramate), antidepressants (SSRIs), blood pressure medications (beta-blockers), and devices that stimulate the transcutaneous supraorbital nerve.
- Alternative methods of treating migraine include acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and avoiding common triggers.
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