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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've had migraines with auras for about eight years now and occasionally migraineless auras. In fact, just had an aura which is how I found this article. I've never had aphasia, but I do get really easily confused and feel stupid or really slow. I also get the scintillating scioma (the sparkling lights - mine are like a blind spot made of iron pyrite) and the really scary part is that I get numbness starting at the fingers of one hand, then moving up the arm and half my face, stopping right at the middle. The first time that happened I was terrified I was having a stroke. My mom gets migraineless auras, so I wonder if that isn't genetic somehow. Interestingly, I don't get as much pain as most migraine sufferers, but I get really bad light and sound sensitivity.

May 22, 2014 - 6:20pm
EmpowHER Guest

I don't know if I had a migraine this morning, as I have never had one before. But I had excruciating pain in my head that I could not think or focus. It made me vomit and feel extremely sick. No, about 4 hours later, my face feels numb, and from my check bones down, feels like I don't have any control over my face. My speech is not normal at the moment. Feels like I can't say what I am thinking and it is coming out in slow motion.
Was this a migraine? I must admit it scared me out of my wits.
Please help!!!

May 15, 2014 - 5:20am
Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anonymous,

Please call your primary care physician now. These abnormal neurological symptoms must be evaluated. If it is after office hours by the time you read my reply, please go to the nearest emergency room.


May 15, 2014 - 4:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had something similar a few years ago. I'd never had a migrane before, and I haven't had one since. It was just a one off blip. It started off as a bad headache while at my grandmas house and then I went to watch Tv. Then all of a sudden I couldn't understand what they were saying in the movie, I was really confused and went downstairs to my family to tell them about it, but found I couldn't speak or form sentences. I then attempted to write a text explaining to them, but couldn't type. I didn't know what was happening and started to panic, but couldn't inform anybody what I was going through. It was a truly scary experience, although I didn't suffer from any zig zags or anything in my peripheral vision.

May 7, 2014 - 5:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have had the auras for about 18 years now. I am currently 59. They start out as vague "sparklies" in my peripheral vision. Then the dizziness starts, and about 10 minutes later, I can't talk properly. The symptoms last for an hour or two and leave me very tired.
I have never experienced migraines, actually, I have only had a couple of headaches in my entire life. That being said, I just had an attack yesterday and it was accompanied by a headache, which I still have nearly 24 hours later. The attacks only occur every 3 - 5 years.
I have been to the doctor, who did tests and sent me to the eye specialist. Neither could find any problems that were causing the auras. I even mentioned the migraine connection to my doctor.
I don't know what to do about them now, but I do know that next time I am rushing to emergency at the hospital. Just so I can be sure they are not strokes.

April 27, 2014 - 7:31am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi, I have only experienced migraines about 5 times in my life (now 41, first one at around 18) and each one is accompanied by an aura about 15-30 minutes before the intense pain hits. It affects my peripheral vision which makes it very hard to walk, focus on things, etc. My last migraine was 4 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. The aura started at work on my way to heat up some food in the microwave in the kitchen. My peripheral vision was completely gone by the time I somehow made it back to my desk. I immediately went to my computer to send an email to my husband to tell him I was going to go home (why I thought I could drive home at that point is beyond me). When I went to type the email, I found I could not figure out how to type any words - couldn't even really understand what I was trying to type in the first place. I must have tried for a full 5 minutes and I would only type random letters. The weird thing is I didn't panic at all as you would expect. I was just so confused as to why I couldn't type and why I couldn't understand the emails that were right in front of me. I felt like I was in a fog. I then picked up the phone to call a colleague who worked in my building for help. Somehow, and thankfully, I could remember his extension but when he answered the phone I could not even form a sentence. I just kept mumbling and stopping and starting because I could not manage to say anything coherent. No matter how hard I tried, I could not form any words. It was incredibly frustrating but again, I wasn't panicked, just totally confused. Thankfully, he ran right down to my office to help. He immediately called my husband to pick me up (after asking 100x if he should call an ambulance) and that's when the pain hit - the worst migraine pain I had ever experienced so far. Excruciating 45 minute car ride home. I still could not really talk to my husband but I think that may have had to do with the intense pain. I immediately went to bed when I got home and stayed there for about 6 hours before I could handle the pain. When speaking to my doctor about it afterwards at my next checkup, he was not concerned - said very flatly it was just the migraine and to take advil when I know the symptoms have started. I never followed up further and haven't had another since. After reading this article however, if I ever experience this again, I will definitely be visiting my new doctor to make sure nothing else is going on. Thanks all for sharing.

October 16, 2013 - 5:56am
EmpowHER Guest

First migraine yesterday. Auras and then they went away after 30 mins. Drove home, as soon as i got in my bed i looked at my phone. then when I checked my contacts none of them could be read correctly or were mixed up . I did not know who anyone was. I was so frightened. The pictures made sense but the names did not. Like the name Joe Gonzolas looked like Oeij Lonsaeg . It was a twisted reality. I fell asleep and my head pounded the whole time waking me up. I have a Hangover feeling today and hurt all over. Still a bit nauseated . I hope if someone else sees this they understand it is not a stroke. and can get through it.

September 21, 2013 - 10:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

I saw the video where Branson had the aphasia and I immediately said to my wife "omg she is having a migrane.." Googled it and found this article. I have suffered from migraines maybe five times in the past 10 years, 37 of age now. Four years ago I had the exact same experience as Branson when I was at work. Suddenly I could not pronounce words, it was just jibberish that came out of my mouth. I tried to sing a song that I knew by heart but was unable to. I went to the ER fearing for my life I was having a stroke. They took it seriously and checked EKGs etc. Then a doctor came to have a chat with me and she immediately asked. "have you ever suffered from migraines?" And then I knew that was what caused it. Nontheless, it was a really frightening experience. Afterwards I had a strange headache for many days.


July 11, 2013 - 1:20pm
EmpowHER Guest

Happened to me last night. Got the aura, took Tylenol and iced my eyes, took a short nap. Woke up (15 to 30 minutes later) and aura was gone. Looked over at Facebook and couldn't understand the first post I looked at. I verified I couldn't read any post very well. It passed within 10 minutes. Very scary.

June 13, 2013 - 11:07am
EmpowHER Guest

This happens to me as well.
Generally I get a flashing circle of light in the corner of my vision, this is when I know the migraine is coming because I haven't felt the pain yet. So I went to bed, but it was no help. Once the migraine hit I was off to struggle through the medicine cabinet, which doesn't work well when it takes 5 minutes to read even the directions!
I had an episode just the other day where all I could completely say was, "I can't talk."

February 10, 2013 - 8:45am
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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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