Many people with migraine experience speech disturbances, also known as transient aphasia, which affect one’s ability to communicate. These changes commonly take place during the aura phase, but can last throughout an attack and occur during the interictal period as well.
Speech communication is a complex process and more research is needed to fully understand how and why it is impacted by migraine. According to one study in which half of the participants experienced speech changes during migraine attacks, speech dysfunction could be as common of a migraine symptom as nausea and unilateral headache, and more common than vomiting. The study concludes that, upon further research, speech changes may be considered a key feature of a migraine attack. Despite this, speech dysfunction is not a migraine symptom that is frequently talked about.
What do speech changes feel like?
As with all migraine symptoms, speech disturbances vary in intensity from attack to attack and person to person. They may present as:
- Difficulty recalling specific words or putting phrases together
- Slowed speaking and/or tripping over words
- Inability to articulate words and thoughts
- Using the wrong words
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Slurred, garbled or unintelligible speech
- Trouble reading or writing with comprehension
These symptoms are further proof that migraine is so much more than just a headache. These complex neurological changes can feel very frustrating and downright scary to both you and the people in your life. Since speech issues are also a sign of other conditions such as stroke or transient ischemic attacks, it’s important to alert you doctor immediately if these symptoms are new for you. Aphasia symptoms may also be side effects of some medications.
Managing speech disturbances
If you experience migraine-related speech disturbances it may help to put a plan in place before your symptoms strike, especially if your experience is severe.
- Explain to your friends or family that you sometimes experience this symptom so they know ahead of time and can better support you
- Identify a friend, family member or coworker who can be a trusted emergency contact who you can reach out to quickly if you need help
- Create and carry an aphasia ID card with you (free at: http://aphasiaid.com/)
- Carry a pen and paper with you in your car, purse, etc.
- Talk to your doctor to see if there are specific medications or therapies that may help
- Try to stay calm and breathe deeply, as panicking will likely worsen your symptoms