Migraine with Aura
Do you experience disturbing symptoms before your headache begins? If so, you could be suffering from “headache with aura.” The word “aura” refers to the feelings, visual disturbances, and neurological and other symptoms that precede the headache. Although rare, some migraineur's, or migraine sufferers, experience the aura without the headache. Some patients suffer from both headache with aura and headache without aura. A professional diagnosis is required. The expert headache physicians at the Diamond Headache Clinic are skilled in ruling out other conditions in order to arrive at the correct diagnosis. If you are suffering from a migraine with aura, the Diamond Headache Clinic headache physicians can provide migraine aura treatment to bring you relief.
What Are the Symptoms of Migraine With Aura?
Before starting migraine with aura treatment, you must first have a formal diagnosis. While only a physician can diagnose migraines with aura, knowing the symptoms will help you seek the right medical advice.
Headache with aura commonly consists of four phases, each with its own symptoms:
This pre-headache phase, which occurs hours or even days before an attack, often serves as a warning that a headache is on the way. In some cases, a full-blown headache can be averted. Possible symptoms include:
- Food cravings
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Increased frequency of urination
- Mood changes such as depression and irritability
- Muscle stiffness, particularly in the neck
The aura begins approximately 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache occurs. The aura phase can also warn of an oncoming headache, allowing the patient to take medication to abort it. Symptoms of aura vary widely and may include:
- Visual effects such as flashing lights, wavy lines, spots, partial loss of vision, blurred vision
- Smelling odors that don’t exist
- Tingling or numbness
- Speaking or hearing difficulties
- Partial paralysis
- Reduced sensation or hypersensitivity to touch
The headache phase is the most incapacitating part of the migraine attack, affecting the entire body, not just the head. Pain ranges from mild to severe. The intense pain, which often awakens the sufferer early in the morning, usually lasts 1 – 72 hours. Symptoms may include:
- Unilateral (one-sided) headache pain
- Pain that occurs around the eyes, sinuses and jaw
- Pain that is worsened by physical activity
- Increased sensitivity to sound, light and odors
- Neck pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Depression, anxiety or confusion
- Hot flashes or chills
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Dehydration or fluid retention
This post-headache or recovery phase can last for hours or even days. Patients have reported feeling “hung over” or “zombie-like,” which may be an effect of the medications taken or the headache itself. Symptoms may include:
- Feelings of depression, well-being or euphoria
- Reduced ability to concentrate and lowered comprehension
- Lowered intellect levels
If you have been noticing these symptoms, you need to make an appointment to discuss how to treat a migraine aura.
How Is Migraine With Aura Diagnosed?
The doctors at the Diamond Headache Clinic are experts in diagnosing headache with aura. An experienced headache physician will conduct a thorough exam, including an inquiry into the patient’s and family’s health history as well as an investigation of the patient’s lifestyle (e.g., levels of stress and physical activity). Physical and neurological (imaging) exams are needed to obtain the correct diagnosis. Other tests, such as blood tests and X-rays, may be required to rule out other conditions.
What Is the Best Treatment for Migraine With Aura?
Migraine with aura treatment falls into two categories: symptom relief and prevention. Symptom relief ranges from simple actions to a prescription drug regimen. Doctor-recommended easy, quick steps to pain relief include napping or resting with eyes closed in a quiet, darkened room; placing cold compresses or ice packs on the forehead; drinking fluids; and taking small amounts of caffeine. Sometimes, symptom-relief treatment for migraines with aura makes it possible for the patient to endure the symptoms and get through the migraine.
Drug therapy for migraine can provide acute or preventive treatment. Acute migraine aura treatment is used to relieve pain once the symptoms appear. Over-the-counter remedies, such as pain-relieving medications (aspirin and acetaminophen), NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen), analgesics and nausea-relief drugs may be effective. Prescription drugs for aura migraine treatment include triptans, ergot derivatives, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and narcotics. People with frequent, severe migraines may require preventive treatment. Some commonly prescribed preventive medications for migraines are anticonvulsants, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and antidepressants.
Taking headache relief drugs more than three times a week can cause medication overuse headache. This means that while the initial headache pain is relieved, the pain reappears as the drug wears off. The more of the drug taken, the shorter the periods of pain relief, resulting in chronic headache pain. This is why the Diamond Headache Clinic treatment arsenal encompasses both drug and non-drug options. Non-drug therapies include biofeedback and relaxation training; lifestyle changes such as exercising, avoiding trigger foods and beverages, eating regular meals, proper hydration, discontinuing certain medications, getting plenty of sleep, and weight loss as appropriate; and natural treatments such as riboflavin (Vitamin B2), magnesium, coenzyme Q10 and butterbur (a natural extract).