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Why Can’t I Type or Speak? Scary Symptoms that Can Accompany Migraine with Aura

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Migraine  related image Photo: Getty Images

Some people who suffer from migraines also get what is called a migraine aura, usually right before the pain hits. The minority of people who experience migraine auras do not go on to have the traditional migraine pain, but most do. It is estimated that about 10 percent of migraines are accompanied by auras.

Migraine auras can present as bright, flashing lines that usually start out as a very small visual disturbance in the middle or side of the visual field and then slowly grow into the shape of half or full circles. The lines may look like a zigzag pattern filled with color and may interfere with the ability to see, or they can be off to the side in the peripheral vision area. They will often last for about five to 60 minutes and can make people feel dizzy or confused.

I’ve had migraine with auras here and there over the past dozen or so years. The first one scared the bejabbers out of me. Since then, I’ve done enough research on them to pretty much know what symptoms might be headed my way. And from what I’ve read, some of them are pretty scary.

For example, some people who are in the throes of a migraine with aura might exhibit symptoms that are very similar to those who are experiencing a stroke.

According to the LiveStrong.com website, some people who are having an aura will suddenly have difficulty with language. The technical term for this is aphasia. It’s unusual, but it happens, and it’s definitely something to be aware of if you have this type of migraine.

This aphasia can take on many forms, including being unable to speak correctly or form sentences, not being able to read, forgetting how to spell words or write emails or texts, and misunderstanding what others are saying to you.

You can see why this might lead friends and family members, as well as the person having the migraine with aura to think that he or she is having a stroke. Case in point: reporter Serene Branson who suddenly started slurring her words and speaking jibberish during a live telecast of the Grammy Awards in February, 2011. Many people instantly decided the young woman had suffered from a stroke on-air, but after undergoing tests it was determined that she had experienced a migraine with aura.

I feel for Branson, because I too have experienced aphasia during migraine with auras, although admittedly not in front of millions of viewers on national television. In one case, I was in the middle of an attack at a grocery store last year while shopping with my two sons. I decided to text my husband to let him know I was not feeling well and to get ready to take over with the boys when we got home so I could rest. But no matter how hard I tried, I found I couldn’t spell simple words. I asked my 12-year-old son how to spell “these” and he looked at me like I was from outer space. After we got home I went upstairs to lie down for about 30 minutes and once the aura passed I felt completely better and checked my outbox for the text message I had sent to my husband. It was garbled, filled with misspellings, and made no sense at all.

After I had my first migraine with aura experience I went in for a complete check-up and also an examination with an ophthalmologist. If you experience migraine with aura-like symptoms for the first time, I would definitely recommend doing the same thing, just to rule out anything else that might be going on. And although I didn’t call my doctor just to check in after my funky texting episode, I should have, and if it happens again I definitely will.

Have you ever had migraine with aura? If so, have you had aphasia too or another weird and scary symptom? Please share your experiences below.





Add a Comment52 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I'm am 22. I just experience my very first migraine 3 days ago. Awful. Worst pain since child birth. At this very moment I am sitting in an emergency room waiting the someone to take me back to MRI. I had a migraine with aphasia this morning. Scared the life out of me. My lips and my right arm were numb. Then when I tried to explain what was wrong the right words would not come out. It was like my brain was replacing my words with other words and all of my speech was slurred. I was getting so frustrated with what was happening that I started crying. Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy, because I was acting crazy and I couldn't for the life of me get the words out. So, here I am. Hopefully this never happens again.

July 10, 2015 - 10:54am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I had my first ones when i was about 20-21. I was worried about what they were so i didn't tell anyone because they seemed to go away pretty quick.. Yesterday I had a pretty bad one with those same symptoms. I had never researched it before so it's almost a bit relieving to know that it may be migraines and not something more serious.. I was extremely stressed out at the time and I am normally very easy going so I wonder if that is what brought it on.. it was very scary though. I'm 32 now so it hasn't happened this way in almost 10 years. this is the first time in 10 years that I haven't been smoking pot, also. I wonder if there is any connection there. I hope you are ok and have gotten some remedy.

October 21, 2015 - 9:39pm
EmpowHER Guest

My first experience with the aphasia part was about 6 years ago. I am 60 years old and have been experiencing migraines infrequently since I was about 24. My food sensitivities have been increasing with age and as I am in the health care field I have been monitoring it pretty closely and have been able to manage the condition without medication. Yesterday while treating a client I suddenly experienced the kaleidoscope vision, very transient, then the aphasia. That sensation of knowing the words are coming out wrong, then trying unsuccessfully to write down what was happening but you can't because of spelling inability, is truly an alarming experience. It passed and passes within an hour with a mild headache sometimes left behind. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what had triggered it. I KNOW MSG does but I couldn't figure out what I had eaten. THEN I realized the day before when I had been visiting in the hospital I had caved and gotten some food from the fast food place in the lobby. Yogurt with berries and a piece of pumpkin pie. Thought they were both "safe" enough. Obviously not. It is like clockwork - about 24 hours after ingesting MSG, it happens. It used to be difficult to pinpoint these things because of the lag time but over the years being more strict has enabled me to live migraine free without medication.

June 3, 2015 - 4:43am
EmpowHER Guest

Seriously. This article is somewhat uninformative. Migraines with aura can be just that - a normal migraine with aura. Or, they can fit into a classification of subtype of Migraine with Aura. Hemiplegic Migraines (FM and SM), Basilar MIgraines, etc. which are more serious. It may have been worthwhile including this in the article with some advice about what to do if any of these symptoms present. I've seen lots of people asking what they should do here.
Basically if you get anything where you think you may be at risk of a stroke do not hesitate to go to ER. I wound up in hospital last month suffering a Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine and needed treatment to help it resolve and seeing a Neurologist tomorrow. If you're unsure of the facts do more research..dont rely on this article alone. It's a good basis for introduction to tell you that Migraines can have aura's other than visual variety - but if you do develop other auras such as aphasia and motor weakness you MUST get this checked out.

May 24, 2015 - 8:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a 22 year old female, I've been experiencing aura migraines with vomiting since I was 8 years old. Since the years have passed, I still get aura migraines but not the vomiting, however, I get other more severe symptoms. It ALWAYS starts with the aura (like I'm looking through a kalediscope) in one eye, then comes the headache which is usually tolerable, then tingling and numbness moving from my hand up to my fave and mouth on one side only which is also occompanied with aphasia. I definitely have to say the aphasia and the tingling is the worst part of it all. Very scary and I always think "this is it, this is the time I'm gonna have a stroke" but of course like most things, it passes . The aphasia is terrible, I will be slurring my speech, I can't speak because I'm not even sure how to comprehend words... I'll be thinking "water.. Wait is that the right word? Water doesn't sound right" its very scary! Worst feeling. Does anyone else get it this intenesly ? Its almost like I'm having a stroke. I'm only 22.. I am so fed up with them, I just wanna make sure I'm okay. I called today and I made an appointment to see a neurologist tlnext week.

February 18, 2015 - 9:48pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Reading this makes me want to cry because this is EXACTLY what I'm going through. I'm only 21 and have been having these types of migraines for 8 years. I've had multiple MRIs which have been inconclusive, and any prescriptions I've been given do not work. I just had a migraine today, and although it wasn't severe, I have to drop everything I'm doing (in this case, I was in class and had to go home) and go to bed until it passes. The kaleidoscope vision usually passes within half an hour of taking my meds, but the numbness and pain come later on, which is what I'm dealing with as I type this. The inability speak does not happen every time, but when it does it is extremely scary. Like you said, I am so fed up with this happening and I just want it to stop.

September 25, 2015 - 4:35pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi! I am 50 and have been having migraines since I was 17. They have dwindled over the years to a couple a year at times of stress. But in the last couple of weeks, I have had two with the aura and aphasia. I have always had all the weird side symptoms and usually, a manageable headache. I go to sleep and it goes away. Just yesterday, I got one of the worst headaches ever and after sleeping, most of the headache is gone, but I still feel the after effects. It IS disconcerting and scary. It always seems to go away though and there isn't lasting effects. I was hoping they would continue to dwindle, but these last two came so close together. Bummer! I feel your pain and concern.

July 10, 2015 - 9:40am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi! It is nice to have found someone who experiences migraines the same way that I do. I too had my first migraine at age 8, after a soccer game on a hot sunny day. I realized over the years that they occur usually when I have been dehydrated, staring into bring lights (like the sun), are overheated, had too much caffeine or alcohol, or not gotten a good night sleep. Stress doesn't help either! I get them like every 2-4 months, and I am 29 now. I start out seeing a small sparkly dot, which after so many years, I know immediately that one is starting. That dot grows and turns into a full blown aura, in which I cannot see well enough to do anything. I get very numb all over, a numbness that "travels", which is the scariest thing ever. I also become confused as you mentioned, thinking words in my head don't sound right and not being able to form sentences (or even thoughts in my head). So you are not alone! But I have been seen many times over the years, and it is just a good ol' migraine. :) Good Luck! (BTW I take a beta blocker every day to prevent them and it seems to make them less frequent)

June 11, 2015 - 9:42am
EmpowHER Guest

I am a 42 year man who has had aura migraines since age 16. Fortunately, I rarely have too much pain and am perfectly fine after 24 or so. 7-8 years ago I began experiencing aphasia and it seriously freaked me out. I have been talking with doctors my whole adult life and they said to only get concerned if 'something changed'. Well, I suddenly couldn't put sentences together and I couldn't type or spell. I went to a doctor after the first aphasia episode and he gave me a clean bill of health, but couldn't offer much of a explanation of the mechanics behind my experience. Just glad to hear that this is a rare but benign condition.

December 23, 2014 - 6:26pm
EmpowHER Guest

This helps so much. Today I thought I was going crazy or was drugged. I was reading a text and suddenly I could only see certain letters. I asked someone else to read it but still couldn't quite process what they were saying. Then I realized I couldn't see half of their face. I tried talking but couldn't form proper sentences and my own voice didn't make sense. It lasted about an hour and turned into a headache. I felt so detached and afraid.

December 18, 2014 - 6:37pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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