These visual auras typically last only a few minutes, and come right before the headache phase of the attack (if there is a headache phase – see migraine headache aura).
But these aura eye symptoms can vary drastically from person to person. Here are some of the types of aura that migraineurs have described, from Migraine Art: The Migraine Experience from Within:
- Uniform flashes of light
- zig zags
- herringbone patterns
- geometric shapes (polygons, rectangles, triangles, etc)
- fortification patterns
- angled or star-shaped sphere
- curved shapes
- veinlike shapes
- kaleidoscope shapes
This is a very simplified and incomplete list. For one thing, patterns may be a combination of the above.
It should also be noted that these hallucinations may be moving. Most often they will grow over the course of a few minutes. The hallucinations may also move with your eye movement.
Also, there are complex hallucinations, such as seeing numbers and letters, or even animals, people, and imaginary creatures.
There are also changes in perception that go far beyond these kind of aura eye symptoms – such as the perception that things are closer or father away than they appear.
We’re only starting to understand why these migraine auras take place. A part of the answer is the cortical spreading depression, a spreading storm of lower activity and hyperactivity that tends to be a part of the migraine chain-reaction. When the storm reaching parts of your brain that relate to vision, at least some of these types of aura eye symptoms occur.
These disturbances are telling us more and more about what migraine is. But in the mean time, the answer for most people is to treat migraine as a whole.
If you have new symptoms, or your symptoms change, that’s the time to talk to your doctor. Although these aura eye symptoms may be an indication of migraine, they may also be related to other conditions.
Be sure to talk to your doctor who knows your medical history, and give her as much detail about your symptoms as you can.
Have you experienced any of the above disturbances? Or some not listed? Tell us about them!