Migraines are more than just severe headaches; they can be a complex neurological or vascular condition with various symptoms, including the phenomenon known as aura. Auras are sensory disturbances that precede or accompany migraines, offering unique insights into the neurological aspects of this condition. Understanding auras can help individuals recognise the onset of a migraine and take appropriate steps to manage their symptoms.

What Are Migraine Auras?

Migraine auras are temporary sensory disturbances that can affect vision, speech, motor function, or sensation. Auras typically precede the headache phase of a migraine attack but can also occur simultaneously. Approximately 20-30% of people with migraines experience auras, which can last from a few minutes to an hour before gradually fading as the headache begins.

Types of Migraine Auras

  • Visual Auras: The most common type, visual auras, includes seeing various light patterns, such as bright spots, zigzags, or flashes. Some people may experience partial vision loss or blind spots.

  • Sensory Auras: These involve changes in sensation, such as tingling or numbness that typically starts in one hand and moves up the arm, then extends to the face, lips, and tongue.

  • Speech or Language Auras: Some individuals may have difficulty speaking or understanding language. Words may seem jumbled, or it may be hard to articulate thoughts.

  • Motor Auras: Less common, these involve muscle weakness or difficulty controlling movements, often on one side of the body.

Causes of Migraine Auras

The exact cause of migraine auras is not fully understood, but they are believed to be related to a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression (CSD). CSD is a wave of electrical activity that moves across the brain’s cortex, leading to temporary changes in nerve cell function. This wave can trigger the sensory disturbances associated with auras.

Managing Migraine Auras

Understanding and recognising the signs of an aura can be crucial for managing migraines effectively. Here are some strategies:

  • Medication: Certain medications can help manage the symptoms of migraines with auras. These might include over-the-counter pain relievers, triptans, and preventive medications. Speak with your healthcare provider to find the right option for you.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, staying hydrated, managing stress, and avoiding known migraine triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines with auras.

  • Seek Professional Help: If you experience auras or migraines for the first time, or if your patterns change, consult a healthcare provider. They can help diagnose your condition and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Migraine auras are a distinctive and often misunderstood aspect of migraines. By understanding what auras are and recognizing their symptoms, individuals can better prepare for the onset of a migraine and seek effective treatment. At The Health League, we operate Victoria’s premiere Migraine Clinic run by Medical Doctor Hana Masata and Chiropractor Doctor Morgan Watson who focuses specifically on diagnosing and treating migraines, offering personalized care plans to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. If you’re experiencing migraines with auras, we’re here to help you navigate your symptoms and find relief.