Migraine headaches affect about 12 percent of the population, or 36 million Americans, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Migraines also affect women three times more often than men. (1)
Migraines can last as little as four hours or as long as several days, according to the Mayo Clinic.
One particular type of migraine is called a migraine with aura. It is estimated that about 30 percent of those who have migraines may have a visual aura.(1) The Mayo clinic says that an aura usually last 10-30 minutes.
A visual aura is more than just the sensitivity to bright lights some migraine sufferers have. A visual aura may involve other vision changes such as:
- Decreased or loss of vision
- Flashes of light or wavy lines similar to how heat looks rising from pavement
- Blurred vision, tunnel vision, blind spots or other visual changes
Migraines with auras can also cause other symptoms besides visual ones.
A Copenhagen study collected data on 257 patients from 16 centers who often had aura migraines. In the group, there were 861 migraine attacks evaluated.
About half of the patients complained of nonvisual aura symptoms. Many patients complained of more than one of the symptoms below and as many as four.
Included amongst the most prevalent nonvisual aura symptoms were:
- Pins and needles or numbness in 29.5 percent of patients
- Problems with speaking or memory in 26 percent
- Olfactory (sense of smell) changes in 19 percent
- Changes to senses of touch or taste or touch in 14 percent(2)
In addition, mild nausea as a pre-migraine symptom occurred in 5 percent of attacks, but researchers noted that incidence decreased in occurrence with age.
Currently, there is no cure for migraines. Treatments are aimed at reducing their frequency and shortening the migraine once it occurs by using preventive and abortive medications.
Suggested treatments include: avoiding migraine triggers, medication, as well as physical and behavioral therapies.
Alternative treatments can be tried such as ice packs, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, yoga or supplements such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin) or CoQ10, as well as the herb butterbur.
Another treatment approved by the FDA in 2013 is the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS).
“The Cerena TMS is a prescription device used after the onset of pain associated with migraine headaches preceded by an aura. Using both hands to hold the device against the back of the head, the user presses a button to release a pulse of magnetic energy to stimulate the occipital cortex in the brain, which may stop or lessen the pain associated with migraine headaches preceded by an aura.”(5)
The Cerena TMS cannot be used if a person has metal implanted in the upper part of their body or has a history of seizures.
To learn more about migraines with auras, watch this Mayo Clinic video .
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith
1) Migraine and Aura. American Migraine Foundation. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
2) Aura Symptoms Highly Variable in Patients With Migraine. Medscape. June 03, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
3) Hansen, Jakob M et al. Variability of clinical features in attacks of migraine with aura. Cephalalgia 2016, Vol. 36(3) 216–224. International Headache Society 2015. DOI: 10.1177/0333102415584601.
4) 16 Highly Effective Migraine Solutions. Prevention.com. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
5) FDA News Release: FDA allows marketing of first device to relieve migraine headache pain. For Immediate Release: Dec. 13, 2013. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
6) Video: Migraine aura. Mayo Clinic.com. Retrieved June 5, 2016.