Aura is a collection of symptoms that can occur before or during a migraine episode. It can cause problems with vision, sensation, or speech, and usually lasts about 20 to 60 minutes.
The American Migraine Foundation estimates that about 25 to 30 percent of people experience migraines. This can be a warning sign that a migraine attack is coming, or it can happen during an attack. This does not happen with every migraine episode.
Learning more about migraines can help you identify them early, take any medications, and prepare for a migraine attack.
What Does a Visual Aura Feel Like?
Visual aura is an aura with visual symptoms. This is the most common type, accounting for 90 to 99 percent of migraines. In addition to being the most common type, these are also the most diverse, with many different and complex symptoms reported.
Common features of visual aura may include:
- “foggy” vision
- blind spots
- zigzag lines
- flashes of bright light
- feeling like you’re seeing things through heat waves or water
- small bright dots
What Does a Sensory Aura Feel Like?
Sensory and includes sensory disturbances. This type of aura is present in about 36% of migraines. This sensory disturbance may occur with or without visual acuity.
The main symptoms of a sensory aura include:
- feelings of numbness or tingling
- a “pins and needles” sensation
The tingling can happen in one arm and then travel up to one side of the face, lips, or tongue.
What Does a Dysphasic Aura Feel Like?
A dysphasic aura is an aura that involves impaired speech and language. It occurs in about 10% of migraines.
Symptoms may include:
- slurred speech
- not being able to form the right words
Other Symptoms of Migraine Attacks
Along with flashes, there are many other symptoms that can accompany migraine attacks. These can vary between individuals and with each attack, along with the phase or phase of the migraine.
Prodome stage is also known as early stage. It can last for a few hours or several days. Most people living with migraine will have a prodrome, but perhaps not with every migraine attack. During prodrome, taking any medications, avoiding known triggers, and trying relaxation techniques can help prevent headaches.
Each person is different, but common prodrome symptoms may include:
- food cravings
- mood changes
- sore neck
Symptoms of flashes usually appear in at least 5 minutes and can last up to 1 hour, although in about 20 percent of people, flashes may last longer. Some people experience flashes after the headache starts, not before the headache phase.
Symptoms of a flare may include:
- Seeing bright spots or flashes of light
- Tingling in the arm or leg, like “pins and needles”
- Blurred vision or dark spots.
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty speaking
- Olfactory auras: The sense of smell and the sense of imaginary odors
The headache phase is what most people think of when they think of a migraine. This stage is marked by pain on one or both sides of the head. It can last anywhere from a few hours to 3 days. Headaches can vary from person to person and for each individual attack.
In addition to the head pain, symptoms can include:
- high sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells
- abdominal pain or heartburn
- worsening pain with physical activity
- loss of appetite
- blurred vision
- nausea or vomiting
The postdrome phase is also known as the “migraine hangover.” It comes after the headache phase, but not everyone with migraines has postdrome. About 80 percent of people living with migraines experience it. This may not happen with every migraine attack.
Postdrome symptoms may include:
- trouble concentrating
- body aches
- sensitivity to light
See a doctor if your headaches or migraine attacks are interfering with your daily life or activities. If you have migraines with aura, treatment with a combination of acute and preventive medications is necessary.
A doctor can do an exam and determine if the cause is migraines or something else. An accurate diagnosis can help you get the right treatment.
Not everyone with migraines has migraines with aura. Even for people who have migraine headaches, there can be a lot of variation. You may not have flashes with every migraine attack, and symptoms may vary. Auras can be visual, sensory, or dysphasic.
Knowing the symptoms of each can help you report them to your doctor and get the right treatment.