What Is A Migraine Aura?

If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or experience weird visual disturbances such as flashing lights or blind spots, you might be experiencing a migraine aura.

What is Migraine Aura?

According to the National Headache Foundation, aura migraine is said to affect “20% of migraine sufferers”. However, it is also possible to experience migraine without aura. A migraine 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 often precede the migraine attack. However, it is possible that it occurs during the migraine attack. You may also experience migraine without aura. And even though this is uncommon, there is a small percentage of people who experience migraine aura without headaches.

There are differences between migraine aura and migraine prodrome even though both of them happen before a migraine attack. Knowing what a migraine prodrome is can be helpful in differentiating the both of them.


What Causes Aura in Migraines?

Despite scientific research conducted, the causes of migraine auras are still unclear but it’s said to be that migraine auras classified as visual disturbances are like electrical/chemical waves which process visual signals. These visual disturbances are also known as visual migraine aura or ocular migraine aura.

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

Symptoms Of Migraine Aura

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

Visual Migraine Aura

Visual disturbances include flashing lights, light spots, floating zig-zag lines or sometimes even temporary loss of sight, are known as ocular or visual aura. The Mayo Clinic notes that “these types of visual disturbances tend to start in the center of your field of vision and spread outward”. However, visual migraine aura symptoms are different for everyone. You might experience bright spots while someone else experiences flashes. Read here to find out more about what a visual migraine aura may look like. It shows you potential migraine aura images which is highly distinctive of a visual migraine aura.


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 Migraine Aura

Sensory migraine aura can coincide with visual aura, or happen by itself. It is characterized by a “march of symptoms”, a tingling that gravitates to another part of the body gradually, and is typically short-lived.

For some, migraine aura may be olfactory and they have a heightened sense of smell or start to smell things that 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 the head, tingling near the eyes, and weakness.


Aura Treatment

While migraine auras are not necessarily dangerous, do consult a doctor for migraine aura treatment. It is also important to note that many of the treatment procedures are aimed at reducing the effects of migraine aura. Some of the medications that the doctor may prescribe to reduce or prevent migraine aura may include calcium channel blockers such as verapamil (Verelan). The doctor may also suggest preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of a migraine attack from happening. After all, prevention is a good first resort! Some lifestyle adjustments may include managing stress and ensuring you have an adequate amount of sleep.

It is important to note that migraine aura is different from migraine prodrome even though migraine prodrome happens before a migraine attack.

Benefits Of Migraine Tracking

Migraine doctors have recommended having a headache log or tracking app to track the migraine attacks. This can provide your doctor or neurologist with an objective record of the migraine attacks and the migraine symptoms. For example, the tracking app Migraine Buddy enables you to track migraine attacks and record if you experienced a migraine aura prior to the attack.

Migraine Buddy is a free tracking app for all, with nifty features to help you better control migraine. Start tracking your migraine aura now and live the best life you can as a #MigraineWarrior. Download Migraine Buddy here now!

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

You Will Also Like

Back to Blog

Leave your mobile to get a link to download the app