What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Classic Migraine

Unlike other migraine sufferers, those with a classic migraine or a migraine with aura, often get a bit of a warning that they have a headache coming on. The dreaded sign of a soon-to-arrive migraine is often a visual sensation that comes prior to the migraine attack. These visual disturbances or auras may consist of flashing lights, blind spots, or zigzag patterns within the visual field. Less often, classic migraine sufferers experience other sensations, such as numbness or tingling in various parts of the body, and speech difficulties. In some cases classic migraines are accompanied by such visual disturbances and sensations rather than preceded by them.

20 Minute Warning

There's no known remedy or medication to treat auras, though any medication that serves to prevent migraines may stave off the aura that attends these headaches. Auras can give sufferers a 20 minute warning that a headache is impending with the aura itself lasting from 10-25 minutes. Sometimes an aura will come without subsequent headache. This is called a migraine equivalent.

Here's a list of common visual disturbances that signify aura:

Blind spots

Blurring vision

Flashes of light

Loss of vision in one eye

Peripheral objects look as though they shimmer

Spots or stars that shimmer

Zigzagging lines within your field of vision

Other sensations that signify aura may include:




Speech problems

Researchers believe that a visual aura is similar to an electrical or chemical wave moving across the part of your brain that processes visual signals: the visual cortex. It's the spreading of this wave that may cause visual disturbances.

If you experience what seems to be a visual aura, it's important to see your doctor right away, to rule out other, more serious ailments such as torn retina or stroke. The diagnosis of migraine is made by weighing your family history and ruling out other conditions that come with similar symptoms.

Out of the Blue?

If your headaches come out of the blue, are extreme in their severity, or you have aura without subsequent head pain, or affecting only one eye, your doctor will also want to rule out conditions such as transient ischemic attack: a passing decrease in blood supply to a part of your brain.

Those who suffer from migraine with aura have a slight increase for risk of stroke. This may be due to changes taking place in the blood vessels or  in the blood flow in the brain. Women who suffer from migraines with aura and who smoke, have high blood pressure, or take birth control pills have a much higher incidence of stroke.