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.