Did You See It Coming? : Migraine Aura

Do you sometimes notice that right before the actual headache of a migraine attack you feel dizzy or nauseous? Or that you experience weird visual disturbances (e.g flashing lights, blind spots, double vision, etc.) ? Those disturbances are classified today as migraine aura.

What is Aura? 

According to the National Headache Foundation, aura is said to affect “20% of migraine sufferers”. It is however also possible to experience migraine attacks without aura. An aura is also commonly known as the “natural warning alert,” which lets you know when a migraine is about to hit and usually happens right before the actual headache. 

As shown in the following image, it is frequently said to last from 5-60 minutes. A migraine aura will more often than not precede the migraine attack. However, it is possible that it occurs during the attack. 



It is still unclear what exactly causes migraine with aura but it’s said to be that auras classified as visual disturbances are like electrical/chemical waves which processes visual signals.  

Most of the time, similar factors which trigger a migraine for a person can also trigger migraine with aura. Triggers could include strong smells, bright lights, irregular sleep cycles, stress and hormones. 


Auras are usually visual but can also take the form of visual, sensory, motor, or verbal disturbances. 


Visual disturbances include flashing lights, light spots, floating zig zag lines or sometimes even  temporary lost of sight. The Mayo Clinic notes that “these type of visual disturbances tend to start in the center of your field of vision and spread outward”. However, it usually isn’t the same for everyone so you might experience bright spots while another migraineur experiences flashes. Read here to find out more about what visual aura may look like. 


Fun fact: Did you know that famous artist Vincent Van Gogh may have suffered from migraines too? He would get “sick headaches” and people believed that he suffered from chronic migraines. Based on the swirling strokes in some of his works, others have speculated that “Starry Night” was actually a painting of visual distortions which he may have experienced during an aura phase of one of his possible migraine attacks. 


Sensory aura can occur simultaneously with visual aura, after or standalone. It is characterised by a “march of symptoms”, a tingling which gravitates to another part of the body gradually, and are typically short-lived. 

For some, aura may be olfactory and they have a heightened sense of smell or start to smell things which aren’t actually present in the environment. Dysphasic aura is another type of aura, which brings about speech or language difficulties.

According to Migraine Buddy users, the top 6 most commonly reported migraine auras include: fatigue, visual disturbances, irritability, tingling in head, tingling near eyes and weakness. 

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Do you experience migraine with aura? What are some of the symptoms you’ve heard about or previously experienced?

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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