Throbbing Head, Striking Lights: What Does A Migraine Aura Look Like

Migraine aura, the second stage of migraine can be very painful. Read on to know about how migraine aura looks like.

Article Card image

A migraine headache is caused by changes in your nervous system and it has four stages, aura being the second one. The attack, and postdrome. Follow on to know about migraine aura and what does a migraine aura looks like.

What is Migraine Aura

Migraine is not just a headache. Migraine headaches are very painful with symptoms like continuous severe throbbing pain in the head, nausea, and sensitivity to all sorts of light, sound, and smells. Migraine has four stages, namely prodrome, aura, migraine attack, and postdrome. Of those who suffer from migraine headaches, only 20 %, feel the aura symptoms. Migraine aura is also described as the warning sign of migraine as its symptoms often start appearing before a headache.

What Are The Symptoms Of Migraine Aura :

The symptoms of Migraine aura begin to appear over a 5–20 minute period and they can last for one hour. If not treated, a migraine attack can continue for a minimum of 4 hours to 3-4 days.

Migraine episodes may occur varies from patient to patient. One can go through them very infrequently to a few times per month.

What Does A Migraine Aura Look Like

Migraine auras, the warning signs of a migraine, can be of three main forms:

Visual disturbances

Physical sensations,

Speech difficulties.

Visual auras During Migraine:

During Visual aura, the patient sees some or all of these visual changes:

Scotomas or blind spots

Colored spots


Light flashes or sparkles of light

Zigzag patterns of lines

Tunnel vision

The visual aura signs first begin in the center of the affected person’s field of vision and then they spread outward. It is common for the affected person to lose the vision temporarily during the migraine attacks.


Physical Sensation Auras

For some people, the second stage of migraine may involve physical sensations. These physical sensations mostly start developing on one side of the body and then they spread slowly to other areas or sides of the body.

During physical aura the affected person may feel:

Pricking of pins and needles in the limbs

Numbness in the entire body or tingling sensations



Weakness in muscles on one side of the body

Speech or Language Difficulty Auras

It may sound strange, but some people may find difficulty in speech or language during migraine episodes. They might find it difficult to communicate in the right manner, finding the right words or expressions and they can also stutter or stammer for a while.

Along with the above migraine aura symptoms, one can also feel

Memory difficulty or changes

Fear and confusion

Partial paralysis or fainting, this happens rarely though

What Are The Types Of Migraine Aura

Though migraine with aura is only seen in 20-25% of migraine patients, some subtypes of migraine are more likely to involve migraine auras. They are:

Classic migraine

Focal migraine,

Aphasic migraine, and

Complicated migraine.

Hemiplegic migraine (This is the rarest of migraine that includes paralysis or weakness on one side of the body)


Migraine With Brainstem Aura

Migraine with brainstem aura is also very rare. A study from Denmark has revealed that it occurs in approximately 10% of migraine patients with aura.

The most common symptoms brainstem aura are:


Difficulty in speech

Ringing in the ears

Double vision or diplopia

Retinal Migraine

This is also a rare subtype of migraine aura. It affects vision the vision in one eye only and can cause temporary blindness too. The affected person also sees flickering lights in that eye.

Most of the people who experience retinal migraines are under 40 and it appears only in 1 out of 200 people who experience migraines. The genetic history retinal migraine multiplies the risk of experiencing it.

Causes and risk factors

Medical science has still not come up with the exact causes of migraine and migraine aura. However, doctors believe that migraine with aura mostly occurs when a wave of electrical activity travels across the visual cortex of the brain.

The risk factors for migraine with aura include:

Alcohol and wine consumption

Caffeine consumption

Facing bright lights or going out in the strong sun

Some foods and food additives like aged cheeses, processed foods, monosodium glutamate, etc

Hormonal fluctuations in females during pregnancy, menstruation, or while using oral contraceptives

Weather changes or barometric pressure changes

Indulging in intense physical activity

Sleeping too much or too less

Some medications, especially for high blood pressure

Stress and anxiety

Strong smells like that of smoke, perfume, etc

Following factors also increase the chances of developing migraine with aura:

Sex: Migraine attacks affect women three times more than men

Age: Migraine aura is more common during 18–44 years of age

Family history: This is the biggest risk factor of aura migraine as approximately 90% of migraine patients have a family history of migraine aura.


Treatments and remedies For Migraine Aura

Migraine and migraine aura are very painful conditions and can definitely affect the quality and functioning of our day to day life. It can be tackled with timely medical intervention. Along with the medications some doctors may also suggest botox treatment for migraine and migraine aura.

Some home remedies can also help you get rid of some of the migraine symptoms. Try to take a nap whenever you see the symptoms developing. Switch off all the lights and lie down in a cool, dark and quiet corner of your house. You can also try placing an ice pack on your forehead, eyes, and neck.

You should also bring some changes in your lifestyle as they can also help in preventing migraine and migraine aura episodes. Stress is the major risk factor of migraine and it is highly suggested that you should practice a stress-reduction technique like yoga, meditation, and relaxation. Never disturb your daily sleep routine, go to the bed at the same time and wake at the same time every day. Eating a balanced diet and avoid eating processed food or food additives as they increase the chances of migraine attacks. Make it a habit to drink lots of water and other healthy drinks. Avoid coffee and tea.

Migraine and migraine with aura is very painful and uncomfortable. It is always wise to follow the advice of your physician and take the right medications to prevent the worsening of pain and symptoms.

Health management

Related Article