When discussing migraines the first symptom – and most common – that people expect to experience is pain. Migraine pain may or may not be more significant than that of a normal headache. Some individuals who have mild-to-moderate head pain are actually diagnosed with migraine. The pain does not have to be severe or debilitating to be migranous in nature.
But… as well as this pain there are other symptoms that may come along with migraines, some appearing before, and some after the pain. These symptoms vary from person to person and vary in severity. Not everyone will suffer every symptom, but those which might manifest include:
• Vision abnormalities
• Sensitivity to light and sound (photophobia and phonophobia)
• Throbbing pain in the head
• Pain in one side of the head
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Stiff neck
• Aura, loss of vision or flashing lights
One of the most common of these – and to many people the most frustrating and difficult to live with if untreated – are the auras. As with many symptoms these aura symptoms vary from person to person and can present in a range of ways. Some people suffer all the symptoms, some just one or two.
These can include one of more of the following:
- Changes in vision, including wavy lines or zigzagging through vision.
- A range of flashing lights and/or colors, particularly in the peripheral vision.
- Some blind spots or areas of vision loss.
- Blurring, distortion, or unclear vision of fixed objects.
- Small areas of face might become numb.
- Speech becomes slurred.
- Dizziness and the feeling that one might fall.
- Pins and needles in the arm and fingers.
These symptoms of aura can begin before the pain of a migraine strikes – and, in fact, for some sufferers the pain never arrives – but these aura symptoms themselves can be debilitating.
For those who suffer regularly, the aura can interrupt daily life and can prevent them from working, driving, studying and can lead to depression.
Many studies also show that migraine with aura may be linked to a higher risk of ischemic strokes – those caused by blood vessels in the brain becoming blocked. Some people who have suffered a transient ischemic attack – or mini stroke – report the same symptoms as migraine with aura.
This risk of stroke is higher in women who currently smoke or take oral contraceptives. Migraine with aura is another risk factor for ischemic stroke. This means that your medical provider will closely monitor sufferers of migraine with aura regularly.
If you have migraine with aura, talk with your medical provider to help understand the difference between an aura and a more serious event, such as stroke. Keeping a diary of your symptoms and possible triggers will help with long term treatment and potential medication adjustment