5 Migraine Aura Myths

5 Migraine Aura Myths
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Anytime you try to summarize anything in a graphic like this, there’s a lot you’re going to miss.  I decided to make this graphic about Migraine Aura Myths anyway, but below is a bit more information.

Migraine Aura:  Neurologic symptoms that often precede a Migraine Headache, typically by about 60 minutes.

Part of the challenge with migraine aura is the definition.  If you include every symptom that may come before migraine (including symptoms that may occur 2-3 days ahead of time), that’s a lot different than the more classic definition of a very short-term symptom (20-30 minutes) (typically) right before a headache.  Early symptoms of a migraine attack can be divided into various categories, or all lumped together.

Myth:  Migraine Aura is always a visual disturbance.
Reality:  Visual disturbances are the most common Auras, but there are other Aura warning signs.

This is a whole topic of its own, but an example of a non-visual aura would be a tingling feeling (“pins and needles”) and numbness.

Myth:  If your attacks are preceded by Aura, they will always will be preceded by Aura.
Reality:  If you experience Migraine Attacks with Aura you will usually experience Migraine Attacks without Aura.

Myth:  A true Migraine attack always involves some kind of Aura.
Reality: Only about 20% of Migraine Attacks include Aura.

This is an important one.  Most migraine attacks do not include aura.  Many people with migraine will never experience aura.

The 20% statistic will vary with age and gender.  Some have suggested that this number is too high, because doctors may use a broader definition of aura than what we’re using here, or may diagnose any kind of visual issue that happens to occur around a migraine attack as “aura”.

Myth:  Migraine Aura is always followed by a severe headache.
Reality:  Aura may be followed by a severe headache, or a mild headache, or no headache.

Yes, just a reminder: many migraineurs do get aura and no headache at all.

Myth:  Migraine Aura can be disturbing but never disabling.
Reality:  Migraine Aura may be only an annoyance, or it can be disabling.

Migraine aura can be extremely disabling, even when there is no pain at all in the migraine attack.

The symbol is a proposed international symbol for hidden disability.  For more information, please visit the Hidden Disability Facebook page.

Most of this information is pretty well known, but special thanks to the following books:  Migraine and Other Headaches, Migraine and Your Child, The Migraine Brain, Menstrual Migraine, Imitators of Epilepsy, Second Edition

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5 comments… add one
  • Toni Ketrick May 23, 2013

    I pray there is continued research on aura without infarction. Many suffer Visual Snow without migraine, which only makes matters worse as this symptom never finds a true diagnosis, just that it must be part of a migraine. Please continue updating the public with this disorder. I never heard of Visual Snow or PMA until it happened suddenly to my daughter 6 weeks ago without migraine. As there are medications for almost every type of disease and disorder, VS shouldn’t be ignored. It devastates quality of life and causes depression and anxiety.

  • Toni Ketrick May 23, 2013

    And the fact that VS is permanent is even more devastating. There are so many people with this disorder, it boggles the mind how the disorder is barely known.

  • Sharon McConville Aug 5, 2015

    I have had these flash type auras for many years. they are Arcs and never a complete circle and not often. they are very bright and I do not see well at all but haven’t had them for years. Usually when I am stressed. However, recently have had heart surgery (Aortic replacement) and since then they are often, almost daily. I have found that taking one regular aspirin it will disappear within 10 minutes. I never get a headache after the Aura ever. I am wondering if it is associated with my vascular system. Also, my dad had it and also my youngest daughter as well. They are now diminishing in occurrences. I am recovering nicely as far as my energy level goes. The auras are not as frequent..at all.

  • Dianne Leach Nov 18, 2015

    Based on symptoms of flashing zig zag arcs and disabling head pain, occasionally accompanied by blackouts, I was diagnosed as a migraine sufferer. 20 years later when symptoms became unbearable and I insisted on a CT brain scan, a slow growing 8 cm diameter meningioma was discovered which had to be “removed immediately”. So after mega steroids to reduce brain swelling and enable craniotomy to remove tumor, all good. Would have been nice to remove a small tumor 20 years earlier, so do not accept migraine as only diagnosis.

  • Marise Palmer Aug 28, 2017

    First time ever 5/6 minutes aura angular shapes in a circle

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