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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 came on here to see if what I was feeling was normal. Today I had a headache- it isn't that terrible in pain but it will not go away with tylenol. I've noticed that my face (around my eyes and mouth) within the last week has had more twitches than normal. For some reason today, I also could not for the life of me spell the word correlation, other than that my spelling was not that bad. Should I be worried?

November 14, 2014 - 9:37pm
Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anonymous,

I am glad to came to us with your concern. Any abnormality raises concern and should be evaluated by a physician.

I would report these symptoms to your primary care physician.


November 17, 2014 - 10:50am
EmpowHER Guest

I'm 34 and have been getting migraines since i was 15. I have no idea what the triggers are. After this long you'd think i could find some food I've eaten in common each time, or realized i was stressed out, or the weather or something but they just really seem to be random.

Every time, without fail for 19 years, mine are a short 10-15 minute visual disturbance followed by mild headache pain if i don't get ibuprofen... except yesterday. Yesterday i was sitting at my computer reading and email when inexplicably i could not read anymore. I immediately started testing my other functions, speaking, walking, listening to people talk and all were fine. I could even sound out the words in the email one letter at a time (an arduous task to say the least) and i could understand, but my sight reading skills? Zip! Right out the window.

I would have gone to the ER, but then i started seeing auras and realized what was happening. Knowing that migraines are inflamed arteries in the brain putting pressure on different places in the brain, it made perfect sense that this was not an emergency but definitely an odd migraine.

So should i still go to the doctor?

November 12, 2014 - 10:45pm
Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anonymous,

Most definitely! Consider the consequences if this had happened while driving.


November 13, 2014 - 10:38am
EmpowHER Guest

I often experience headaches with migraine and it is extremely scary when the aphasia hits. Last night I was pretty sure I might be having a stroke but was unable to call for help. Now I am thinking about getting a lifeline for the first time since I live alone. Very scary indeed!

November 11, 2014 - 7:30am
EmpowHER Guest

I am 41 and have experienced migraine headaches since I was in my late teens. The early ones were just the pain accompanied by light sensitivity. There was never a pattern to them. I used to get them two to fives times a year. My first experience with aura and aphasia was when I was 29. I, like a lot of sufferers, thought I was having a stroke and went straight to the emergency room. Had a CT and was told it was migraine side effects. As I've gotten older, my symptoms have actually gotten worse, but I recognize the early stages and medicate during the first signs of aura and most of the time this keeps me from getting the full-blown pain. I have had every migraine symptom you can think of. Usually, it's in the order of aura first, numbness of hands and mouth next, then the pain starts. My aphasia, though not present with all of my episodes, occurs during the end of the migraine. I actually had a migraine that lasted 8 days with aura and nausea every day. I was miserable . Thank goodness my primary care doctor is a migraine sufferer herself, so she is very sympathetic. I had an MRI this time. Nothing but a couple of lesions on my white matter (common in migraine patients). It can be scary (aphasia still scares the begeebers out of me, because I'm fully aware of the nonsense as it is happening), but for the most part, it's a MAJOR inconvenience and just plain annoying. My dad and oldest child also have migraine with aura, so I'm somewhat convinced that there is a heredity factor. Always get checked when you have new/unusual symptoms, just to be safe. Learn how to recognize the early signs, learn what your triggers are, and learn which treatments work, and which ones don't. Migraine is still a medical mystery, so try to figure out what treatments work for you. I can manage mine fairly well now, compared to just having to sleep them off when I was younger. Hopefully, someday, I can say that I am migraine-free!

August 21, 2014 - 9:56pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

This is so much like what I have! I'm a 22 year old female. I just made a post on here. I get aura, headache, tingling, aphasia... In that order. I also think I'm having a stroke!

February 18, 2015 - 9:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi for the last two years I have experienced stroke like symptoms while having a migraines. I go numb/pins and needles down the left side of my body, even my lips droop a little. But the last two migraines I have had I have noticed I completely lose the ability to read and spell for a while a even the complete wrong words come out when I try to speak. It's very scary and I was convinced something terrible was happening to me. I have never been to the doctors about my migraines and have no idea why I have started getting them in the last two years.

August 3, 2014 - 1:22pm
Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anonymous,

These are serious symptoms that must not be ignored.

These episodes could be transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini-strokes.

TIA is caused by a clot; the only difference between a stroke and TIA is that with TIA the blockage is transient (temporary). TIA symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time. Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. When a TIA is over, it usually causes no permanent injury to the brain.

Please contact your physician to report this and to schedule an appointment.


August 4, 2014 - 9:18am
EmpowHER Guest

I had two 'migraine aura' episodes in four months (one in December where I thought I was hallucinating, then forgot how to work the TV remote, and one in mid-April where I had what I know now are 'typical' migraine aura visual disturbances, followed by aphasia - I couldn't speak properly and couldn't read words that I knew I knew). I went to the hospital the second time, convinced I was having a TIA ('mini stroke'); the on-call doctor and internist he brought in both agreed it was a TIA and immediately put me on anti-clotting meds, increased my cholesterol and blood pressure meds and 'warned' me it could happen again or, worse, I could have a full-on stroke it I didn't better manage my exercise and diet (which were only 'moderately acceptable' according to them; I am not overweight or terribly out of shape and I eat fairly well). However, when a neurologist was brought in, he immediately said it was migraine-related (mostly based on my description of the 'aura' - bright lights and zig-zaggy lines and a circular, growing shiny 'blind spot' ) and after undergoing every test possible (CT scan, EEGs, MRIs, heart and artery ultrasounds, ECG) and finding NOTHING, it looks like he was right. I've always suffered from headaches whenever there are severe barometric pressure changes but I never considered them 'migraines' - he says that's exactly what they are and that what I experienced could happen with or without a headache following (I did have a headache later, but I attributed it to stress and anxiety). It's a relief to know I'm not 'at risk' for a stroke, but frustrating to think that the other doctors didn't even consider this as a possible diagnosis (I've also had angina-like 'attacks' in the past 5 years [chest pain, tingling in my arms and legs] that have sent me to the emergency room in a panic and I've been for every heart test imaginable and they all come back 'clean'; the neurologist tells me this is another 'common' symptom of 'migrainous episodes'.) There needs to be more information 'out there' about this condition - I bet a lot of people are convinced (or told by their doctors) that they've had a mini-stroke (and are on meds they don't really need).

June 3, 2014 - 4:06pm
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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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