Migraine with aura
Migraine with aura
Migraine with aura is a migraine that's preceded or accompanied by a variety of sensory warning signs or symptoms, such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your hand or face.
Migraine with aura is generally treated in the same way as migraine without aura. And the same medications and self-care measures that help to prevent a migraine can also be used to prevent migraine with aura.
Migraine aura symptoms include temporary visual or sensory disturbances that typically precede the usual migraine symptoms — such as intense head pain, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine aura usually occurs within an hour before head pain begins and generally lasts less than 60 minutes before disappearing. Sometimes, migraine aura may occur with little or no headache.
Visual signs and symptoms
These types of visual disturbances tend to start in the center of your visual field and move outward, or spread.
Other sensory disturbances
When to see a doctor
The cause of migraine with aura isn't clearly understood. It's believed that the visual aura that may accompany migraine is like an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the part of your brain that processes visual signals (visual cortex). As the wave spreads, it may cause these visual hallucinations.
Many of the same factors that trigger migraine can also trigger migraine with aura, including stress, bright lights, fatigue and changes in sleep patterns.
While no specific factors appear to put you at risk for migraine aura, migraines in general seem to be more common in people with a family history of migraine. Migraines are also more common in women than men.
People who have migraine with aura are at a slightly higher risk of stroke. Women who have migraine with aura appear to have an even higher risk of stroke if they smoke or take birth control pills.
Preparing for your appointment
If you're experiencing temporary visual or sensory disturbances, a first step in having your symptoms evaluated is to see your family doctor or a general practitioner. In some cases you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders (neurologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For migraine with aura, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If you experience signs and symptoms of aura that are followed by typical signs and symptoms of migraine, it's likely you have migraine with aura. Your doctor may diagnose the condition on the basis of your medical history and a physical exam.
But if your aura isn't followed by head pain, or the visual disturbances affect only one eye, your doctor may recommend certain tests to rule out more serious conditions, such as a retinal tear or a transient ischemic attack — a temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain — that could be causing your symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend:
Your doctor may also refer you to a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders (neurologist) to rule out brain conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
Treatments and drugs
There is no specific treatment for the signs and symptoms of aura. Treatment for migraine with aura is similar to treatment for migraine without aura.
Types of medications that can be used to treat migraine pain include:
Last Updated: 2011-03-03
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