If you experience migraines, you might have more symptoms than just a headache. For instance, you might have nausea or vomiting.
In some cases, you may be experiencing migraine with aura.
Although it’s not as common as a migraine without aura, it’s still important to know its symptoms since it can be a bit scary, especially the first time it happens.
Usually, the pain from a migraine is a throbbing pain that only occurs on one side of your head.
In most cases, a migraine lasts for at least four hours. It’s possible for people of all ages to experience a migraine, even children.
What Is a Migraine Aura?
A migraine aura describes visual or sensory symptoms that occur in the second phase of a migraine.
The first stage of a migraine is the prodrome stage, which causes the early symptoms like constipation and depression that happen before the attack.
Then, if you experience an aura, you have the visual or sensory symptoms. Next, you then have the attack and finally the postdrome phase.
You might not experience an aura each time you get a migraine. In fact, most don’t experience them at all since they only happen in 25 to 30 percent of all migraine sufferers.
During some migraines, you may never experience the headache pain but still have a migraine aura.
What Types of Migraine Auras Are There?
Visual Migraine Aura
This type refers to visual symptoms like seeing light or shapes that aren’t really there. Some examples of items you might see include the following:
- Colored spots
- Flashing lights
- Zigzag lines
- Dark spots
Temporary loss of vision and other vision changes may also be experienced. Between 82 to 90 percent of people who have migraines with aura have visual symptoms.
Sensory Migraine Aura
This only occurs in about 11 percent of migraine sufferers. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. People who experience a sensory aura have tingling or numbness.
It’s also possible to have a pins and needles sensation. You could experience an odd feeling in your face, tongue, hands, feet, or legs. You might have that odd sensation throughout your entire body.
Are There Any Other Types of Migraine Auras?
Although it’s not as common, some people who experience auras have transient language problems, also known as dysphasic auras. For instance, you might have difficulty finding the right words to say or just speaking in general.
In rare cases, you may have what is called hemiplegic migraine, where your limbs and possibly one side of your body or face becomes numb.
It’s a very rare occurrence, but fainting can happen during a migraine aura.
How Long Does a Migraine Aura Last?
Typically, a visual aura lasts about 10 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, a sensory aura tends to last between 10 to 20 minutes. Any type of migraine aura can last up to an hour, though.
While the aura usually happens before the migraine attack, it’s possible for it to occur during the attack.
After you experience the first three stages of the migraine, you’ll have the postdrome phase. During this time, you might feel washed out or completely drained of energy.
What Causes a Migraine Aura?
The cause of a migraine aura isn’t quite understood, nor do scientists know the exact cause of a migraine. It does appear the that several chemicals in the brain play a role, and nerve activity seems to have a part, as well.
After monitoring brain activity during a migraine, scientists theorize that nerve activity spreads from one side of your brain to the other, which stresses the trigeminal nerve — the fifth cranial nerve and the one responsible for transmitting signals from your face to the brain.
Exciting the trigeminal nerve seems to change the size of the blood vessels in the brain, causing them to release an increased amount of neurotransmitters, leading to pain and inflammation.
Scientists believe this is due to electrical waves moving across your brain that alter how your brain processes sensory information.
Who Experiences a Migraine Aura More Often?
If you have a family history of migraine auras, you’re more likely to experience them. It’s more common for them to begin during childhood and increase in severity during adolescence. As children, more boys have them than girls, but more adult women experience them than men.