Migraines with aura are a disabling primary headache disorder and are ranked by the World Health Organization as number 19 of diseases which cause disability. Some researchers believe that migraine with aura is actually a bunch of diseases put into one but generally migraines are considered one disease and divided into two subtypes: Migraine without aura and migraine with aura.
Migraines with aura affect 25 to 30 percent of migraine sufferers. Many migraine suffers won’t experience the aura prior to every migraine and so both subtypes may be diagnosed together.
Migraine classification can be broken down into further types including migraine with typical aura, migraine with brainstem aura, familial hemiplegic migraine, sporadic hemiplegic migraine and retinal migraine.
The aura refers to changes in vision, and sensitivity to light, sound and motion, and often occurs prior to the onset of a migraine. In some cases it is possible to experience the aura and not the migraine.
Scientists are still unsure as to what causes the aura but speculation has arose which shows that serotonin and dopamine may play a role. Researchers believe that the aura is caused when serotonin and dopamine go awry and are no longer regulated which leads to the immune system overreacting. The flood in immune response to the brain causes cells to rush the brain causing blood vessels to widen. This opening and contracting thus contributes to the headache sensation.
Other speculated causes include genetics, being overweight, substances, behaviors and environmental triggers.
Symptoms of a migraine include:
Additional symptoms which occur prior to migraine – the aura – include:
To diagnose migraines with aura your doctor will try to first rule out other causes for your headaches so they will perform a physical exam and neurological exam. Your doctor may also ask you some questions including do headaches or migraines run in your family? Do you have allergies? What is your stress level like? Are any medications you are currently on cause headaches? And do you notice the headaches onset after you physically exert yourself?
Other medical tests to diagnose migraine with aura include blood tests, CT scans or MRI, and checking for any infection which may pose the same symptoms.
If your doctor does determine an underlying cause for your headaches than treating that condition will in turn help improve your migraines. If you do receive a diagnosis of migraines with aura your doctor’s goals are to reduce symptoms and prevent future episodes.
Often lifestyle changes can help improve migraines with aura including losing weight, modifying medications, and even keeping a headache diary so you can begin to pinpoint any other triggers which you can avoid to prevent future episodes of migraines with aura.
Your doctor can prescribe you medications in order to prevent or lessen migraines with aura or they may recommend you wear a magnetic device.
Migraine with aura can be disabling and keep you from work, school, social events, essentially from living your life when they stroke. For this reason living with them may seem difficult and so it’s important you find useful ways to cope with migraines with auras in order to enjoy your life.
The first step is to find your triggers so you can better avoid them. Some common triggers include strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, changes in weather, being tired, stressed out or depressed, skipping meals or menstrual cycles and changes in hormones. As mentioned keeping a headache diary can help you track what your own triggers are.
Following the plan which your doctor has put you on, too, can help you better cope with migraines with aura and prevent future episodes allowing you to enjoy your life.
Lastly, speaking to others or a therapist may help you receive the emotional support you need to better cope with migraines with aura.
Two 2013 studies found that women who experience migraines with aura – headaches accompanied by visual disturbances – have a greater risk of heart attack and blood clots. The first study revealed that migraine with aura largely contributes to cardiovascular events and stroke, and the second study looked at women’s use of hormonal contraceptives and the risk of blood clots. Continue reading…
Migraine sufferers who experience auras and female migraine sufferers taking estrogen are at a greater risk for stroke. The results of the study found that migraine sufferers with auras are at a 2.4 times greater risk for stroke from a blood clot, compared to migraine sufferers without auras. Continue reading…