Migraine With Aura

migraine aura flow osteopathy mitcham
Melbourne osteopath Tim discusses what migraine with aura is and how treatment can help.

Sometimes, but not always someone going through a migraine episode will experience an aura. This is a distinct stage of the migraine process that will generally precede the ‘headache phase’. It can provide a helpful alert to take abortive medications and reduce the possibility of the migraine escalating.

Our evidence based treatment approach is a long term, preventative approach. We aim to reduce the sensitivity in the brainstem associated with migraine to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine as well as the reliance on medications.

What is an aura?

An aura is a neurological disturbance that occurs prior to the onset of head pain in migraine.

Aura is thought to be experienced by around one third of all people living with migraine (1). According to official classification, the aura lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to one hour. It is then followed by the headache phase. In reality around 25% of people will experience an aura that lasts for more than an hour and they have been known to overlap substantially with the headache phase of the migraine (2).

What Are the Symptoms of Migraine Aura?

Aura can present in a variety of ways. Most often it is a visual disturbance, but not always.

Common visual aura symptoms include:

  • Spots in vision
  • Flashes
  • Zig zags
  • Stars
  • Losing sight for a period of time

Other types of aura can include:

  • Feeling numbness or tingling in the face, body, hands or fingers
  • Speech and language issues, such as struggling to find the right words, slurring and mumbling words

What Causes Migraine Aura?

What causes the aura in migraine is not fully understood yet. The most likely theory is a phenomena called cortical spreading depression or ‘CSD’. CSD is like a wave of altered activity in the brain that ultimately leads to the brain ‘powering down’ (3). It appears to start in the back of the brain, in the visual cortex. It is possible that this is the reason aura symptoms are often visual in nature (spots, flashes, zig zags etc).

How Do You Treat Migraine Aura?

Using a headache diary can be a fantastic way of clarifying the nature of your migraine aura. Take note of how frequently they arrive, how long they last and the way in which they present (visual, tingling etc). Knowing these things can help you and your health practitioner formulate a plan to manage them effectively.

Migraine aura is managed in the same way as migraine in general. It is important to take an individualised, holistic approach to your migraine management. Through a trial and error approach you can eventually find the correct combination of treatments that work best for you.

For more information on how we can help, visit the headache and migraine page.

  1. Rasmussen BK, Olesen J. Migraine with aura and migraine without aura: an epidemiological study. Cephalalgia 12: 221–228, 1992. [PubMed: 1525797]
  2. Viana M, Linde M, Sances G, Ghiotto N, Guaschino E, Allena M, Terrazzino S, Nappi G, Goadsby PJ, Tassorelli C. Migraine aura symptoms: duration, succession and temporal relationship to headache. Cephalalgia 36: 413–421, 2016. [PubMed: 26156076]
  3. Somjen GG. Mechanisms of spreading depression and hypoxic spreading depression-like depolarization. Physiol Rev 81: 1065–1096, 2001. [PubMed: 11427692]
top posts