Migraine with Aura: Understanding this Complex Migraine Type


“Migraine with aura” — for many, this phrase is nothing more than medical jargon. Yet, for those who’ve experienced it, it encapsulates a profound and often unsettling sensation. Diving into the depths of this phenomenon can shed light not just on the “what,” but the vital “why.”


What is a Migraine with Aura?

The term refers to a type of migraine accompanied by unique sensory disturbances known as ‘aura.’ It’s not merely about the throbbing pain in your temples. It’s a narrative, a multi-act play with a beginning, middle, and end.

Why Understand This Type?

Why bother with the intricacies of this particular migraine? For starters, awareness. Understanding the nuances can pave the way for more effective coping mechanisms, clearer communication with medical professionals, and a greater sense of control over one’s health. Knowledge, after all, is a potent tool against fear and uncertainty.

Symptoms of Migraine with Aura

Migraine with aura is like an unsolicited light and sound show, orchestrated by your brain.

  1. Sensory Disturbances: Often beginning with visual disturbances, an aura can manifest as shimmering lights, blind spots, or even geometric patterns. Imagine watching a TV with bad reception — the visual noise, the static. That’s an aura for many.
  2. Visual Signs: Apart from the typical shimmering sensations, there might be instances of zig-zag lines or waves. Some describe it as looking through a cracked window, where the world gets fragmented.
  3. Other Sensory Glitches: It’s not just the eyes that bear the brunt. Some individuals might experience tingling sensations, akin to pins and needles, on their face or hands. Others might grapple with speech disturbances, struggling to find the right words or articulate their thoughts.

Phases of Migraine with Aura

Life’s a stage, and so is a migraine with aura. Just as a story unfolds through acts, this migraine type progresses through distinct phases.

  1. Premonitory phase: Subtle signs make their cameo. It’s like the universe dropping hints — unexpected food cravings, mood swings, or even heightened sensitivity to light or smells. It’s the calm before the storm.
  2. Aura phase: This is where the main event starts. The sensory anomalies, primarily visual disturbances, dance in the limelight. However, these symptoms are transient, usually lasting between 20 minutes to an hour.
  3. Headache phase: Imagine a percussion concert inside your head. That’s the headache phase. It’s intense, often throbbing, and can last anywhere between 4 to 72 hours. Accompanying this head symphony could be nausea, vomiting, or an extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
  4. Postdrome phase: As the curtain falls, the post-show effects kick in. It’s a phase characterized by exhaustion, confusion, and sometimes euphoria. It’s the body’s way of recovering and regaining equilibrium.

Types of Migraine with Aura

If migraine with aura was a tree, its branches would be its types. Each type, while rooted in the same phenomenon, has its quirks.

  • Migraine with aura (with or without a headache): A paradox in itself. The aura takes center stage, with or without the headache accompanying it. It’s like watching a trailer without the movie following it.
  • Migraine with brainstem aura: Symptoms can sound straight out of a sci-fi novel. Vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or even impaired speech. It’s as if the brainstem joins the aura party.
  • Retinal migraine: The eyes have it all. This type manifests as temporary blindness in one eye or even flickering lights. It’s short-lived but can be quite disorienting.
  • Hemiplegic migraine: This one’s intense. Imagine waking up with one side of your body temporarily paralyzed. Scary? Yes. Permanent? No. It’s the body’s exaggerated way of signaling a migraine.

Causes of Migraine with Aura

Delving into the root causes, we’re confronted with a blend of scientific understanding and a dash of mystery.

  • Electrical or Chemical Waves: Imagine the brain as a complex electrical circuit. Sometimes, there’s a surge — an electrical or chemical wave that cascades across the brain’s landscape. This wave, scientifically termed ‘cortical spreading depression,’ is believed to trigger the sensory disturbances of an aura.
  • Brain Chemicals in Play: The brain’s messaging service relies on neurotransmitters, with serotonin being a key player. Fluctuations in levels of these chemicals, particularly serotonin, may be instrumental in sparking a migraine.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Migraine with Aura

Navigating the maze of migraine diagnosis requires expert guidance. The symptoms, though telling, need expert interpretation.

  • Healthcare Provider Evaluation: A tapestry of tests and questions. From a detailed personal history to possibly even imaging tests, the route to diagnosis is comprehensive.

When it comes to treatments, it’s no one-size-fits-all.

  • Management Options: The arena here is broad. Some find solace in relaxation techniques or biofeedback, while others opt for acupuncture.
  • Medications and Lifestyle Tweaks: From preventive medications to pain-relieving ones, the pharmaceutical options are varied. Pair that with lifestyle changes like diet modifications, and you’ve got a robust defense strategy.

When to Seek Expertise

While knowledge equips, it’s essential to recognize when it’s time to hand the reins to an expert.

  • New Aura Dynamics: If the aura starts playing a different tune, with symptoms you haven’t experienced before, it’s time to consult.
  • Alarming Symptoms: Temporary vision loss? Difficulty in speech? Muscle weakness? These aren’t just red flags; they’re blazing sirens urging immediate medical attention.


Migraine with aura is a journey — a journey through sensory anomalies, phases, and a gamut of emotions. But, like all journeys, this too can be navigated with knowledge, awareness, and timely intervention. The Migraine Centers stands as a beacon for all those seeking guidance and relief. With a blend of expertise and empathy, there’s hope and help for those dancing with the enigma of migraine with aura. Remember, understanding is the first step. With the right resources and resilience, a brighter, pain-free horizon awaits.

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