Migraine Symptoms: The Aura Phase

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | April 22, 2022

In a previous blog post we discussed the visual disturbances that many people experience during the migraine aura phase. Today we continue with other symptoms common during this phase of a migraine attack.

What Are Aura Symptoms?

Aura symptoms are sensory disturbances that generally signal an attack is coming, and contrary to what most people might think, they can include far more than visual disturbances. Aura symptoms typically last 5-60 minutes and precede the onset of head pain though they may be ongoing for some. It’s also possible to experience aura and never get head pain at all. Like everything to do with migraine, aura symptoms and their intensity vary not only from person to person, but also from attack to attack, not to mention that some people never experience them at all.

In addition to visual disturbances, common aura symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to light, sound and smell
  • Sensory changes
  • Change in taste
  • Tinnitus
  • Tingling, numbness often in the face and hands, but can spread to other parts of the body
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness, vertigo
  • Speech disturbances—trouble recalling specific words or expressing thoughts, slurring or tripping over words
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate, read or write
  • Energy level changes—either higher or lower

Managing Aura Symptoms

The most important thing you can do when aura symptoms come on is to try and stay calm. It’s common for our anxieties to rise at the onset of these symptoms, as they can be scary to experience, but also because they often signal the pain that is to come. Keeping calm is key.

  • Make arrangements for driving, childcare, work coverage, etc.
  • Consider which medications are most likely to help you based on your specific symptoms and their severity
  • Lie down in a quiet, dark room
  • Use a medical device for migraine
  • Try some non-pharmaceutical treatment options from your migraine toolbox such as:
  • Heat/ice pack
  • Dark/Light-filtering glasses
  • Green light lamp
  • Weighted blanket
  • White noise or calming music

Because of the way aura symptoms impact our sensory systems, they can be quite alarming to experience. In addition, many of the symptoms share characteristics with other more serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. It’s important to discuss all of your symptoms, and especially any new ones that arise, with your doctor.

We want to know! Do you experience aura symptoms? What do you do when you get them and know that a migraine attack is coming? How much time do you have between the first symptoms and the onset of head pain?

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