Migraine Aphasia: Symptoms And Cause


Identifying And Understanding Migraine Aphasia

What Is Migraine Aphasia?

According to The Norsuffolk Neurology, migraine aphasia is a migraine symptom that affects your language. It impairs one’s ability to process language, both in written and spoken words. When speaking, words may come out slurred and unintelligible.

Although rare, migraine aphasia is a symptom that affects 25 to 30 percent of migraine patients and it can be quite debilitating. But did you know aphasia is linked to migraine with aura?

Migraine Aphasia: Symptom Of Migraine Aura

During the migraine aura phase, your speech and language skills can also be temporarily affected. This prevailing symptom is an example of migraine aphasia and how it correlates to migraine aura.

The most commonly known symptom associated with migraine with aura is a visual disturbance that usually lasts between 5-60 minutes. You might see flashing lights, black spots, an oil spill-type pattern in the vision, or a scintillating scotoma. There may also be tingling or numbness in your arms, legs, or face. However, with migraine aphasia, you may also experience speech impairment. This neurological symptom interferes with the ability to speak, write, read, or even understand language which can be highly demoralizing. 

Serene Branson, CBS2 Reporter, was covering The Grammy’s in 2011 on live news when she experienced an aphasic episode. She had trouble speaking and felt “scared, confused, and didn’t know what was going on.” Perhaps you can empathize with her emotions too.

What Causes Migraine Aphasia?

Migraine that produce dysarthria accompanied by aura are commonly identified as migraine with brainstem aura, previously known as basilar-type migraine. According to the experts from Migraine Again, this type of migraine is thought to originate in the brainstem, located at the base of the brain, and may also lead to other symptoms.

How Long Does Migraine Aphasia Last?

According to Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Goldberg Migraine Program and professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, “Aura symptoms typically last for several minutes for up to an hour and then resolve completely. Occasionally, they may last for more than an hour, and rarely may even last for days. A migraine aura may affect the visual, sensory, language, and/or motor systems.”.

Migraine Aphasia Symptoms: What Does Migraine Aphasia Feel Like?

Common symptoms of migraine aphasia include:

  • Difficulty in choosing the right words to articulate your thoughts.
  • Utilize one word in place of another
  • Speak in sounds that don’t make up understandable words
  • Have difficulty understanding the speech of others
  • Have difficulty writing sentences that make sense

Transient Aphasia, Migraine, And Stroke

Speech difficulties can be a symptom of any of these three migraine subtypes (migraine with aura, hemiplegic migraine, or migraine with brainstem aura.) It is an urgent and significant symptom if it has not already been diagnosed. If your speech is ever garbled, discuss it with your doctor to rule out any other neurological causes and to better diagnose your migraine type.

Aside from migraine, temporary aphasia can also be due to seizures or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA occurs when blood flow is temporarily blocked to an area of the brain. People who’ve had a TIA are at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.

What makes migraine aphasia frightening are the close similarities it has to stroke symptoms. Hence, if it’s the first time you’re having aphasia symptoms, you should visit your doctor or neurologist for a full medical history and potential tests such as an MRI or CAT scan to rule out other conditions. Keeping a migraine journal to identify triggers and patterns is always recommended.

How To Manage Migraine Aphasia?

If you have recurring patterns of migraine aphasia during your migraine attacks, here are some options to consider which might help you manage when the symptoms start.

  • Set up your in case of emergency (ICE) on your cell phone. You can direct this to call a predetermined phone number of someone who understands what you would like to have to happen during an aphasic episode.
  • Set up a list of questions or ‘request for help’ prompts in your phone that you might be able to point to and ask for assistance.
  • Carry a card that explains that you have migraine aura, what the symptoms are, and that they will pass shortly. Set up and print a free card at the National Aphasia Organization
  • Make sure your GPS tracking is enabled and your location is shared with your significant others or family. This will help them find you if are unable to communicate with them.

What Can You Do To Help Yourself?

Difficulty finding the right word can be one of the more scary, embarrassing, and frustrating migraine symptoms. Not to mention that it usually comes with blinding pain, possible visual aura symptoms, and a host of other debilitating symptoms.

Thankfully, in most cases, migraine aphasia is not a dangerous symptom. Sharing with family members, friends, and co-workers about the symptoms one can experience to help them know how and when to assist or administer aid will be helpful to make you feel less alone during a migraine attack.

Furthermore, the most important thing to do is talk to a doctor. A doctor has been trained, ready, and able to assist anyone with an illness like this. Learn to live and love life and not just survive it! This war has a considerable army fighting against the enemy, and no one is alone in the battle. Get all the help you need, and leverage technology to cope with the condition.

Download Migraine Buddy on iOS and Android now!


1.Zollinger, Eileen. “Transient Aphasia and Migraine: What You Need to Know” Migraine Strong 14 Oct, 2023, https://www.migrainestrong.com/transient-aphasia-and-migraine-what-you-need-to-know/ 

2. “Recognizing Aphasia During a Migraine Attack.” North Suffolk Neurology, 30 September 2020, https://www.northsuffolkneurology.com/blog/recognizing-aphasia-during-a-migraine-attack-22559.html

3. “Understanding Migraine With Aura.” American Migraine Foundation 1 March, 2023. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-aura/

4.”Migraine Aphasia: Why Your Words Get Jumbled”. Migraine Again 11 June 2022. https://www.migraineagain.com/migraine-babble-words-get-jumbled/

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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