Migraine aura symptoms include temporary visual or sensory disturbances that typically precede the usual migraine symptoms — such as intense head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine aura usually occurs within an hour before head pain begins and generally lasts less than 60 minutes. Sometimes migraine aura occurs with little or no headache, especially in people age 50 and older.
Visual signs and symptoms
The majority of people who experience migraine aura develop visual signs and symptoms. These may include:
- Blind spots (scotomas), which are sometimes outlined by simple geometric designs
- Zigzag lines that gradually float across your field of vision
- Shimmering spots or stars
- Changes in vision
- Flashes of light
These types of visual disturbances tend to start in the center of your visual field and move outward, or spread.
Other sensory disturbances
Other temporary sensations sometimes associated with aura include:
- Feelings of numbness, typically felt as tingling in one hand or in your face
- Difficulty with speech or language
- Muscle weakness
When to see a doctor
If you experience the signs and symptoms of migraine with aura, such as temporary vision loss or floating spots or zigzag lines in your field of vision, see your doctor immediately to rule out more serious conditions, such as stroke or retinal tear. Once these conditions are ruled out, future migraines with aura won't require a visit to your doctor, unless your symptoms change.
Jun. 04, 2013
- Aminoff MJ, et al. Clinical Neurology. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=66. Accessed April 18, 2013.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm?css=print. Accessed April 18, 2013.
- Stone K, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment Emergency Medicine. 7th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=55749542. Accessed April 18, 2013.
- Hauge AW, et al. Trigger factors in migraine with aura. Cephalalgia. 2010;30:346.
- Marnura MJ. Use of dopamine antagonists in treatment of migraine. Current Treatment Options in Neurology. 2012;14:27.
- Salhofer-Polanyi S, et al. Prospective analysis of factors related to migraine aura — the PAMINA study. Headache. 2012;52:1236.
- Botox gets nod for migraine. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2012-05-11-botox-gets-nod-for-migraine/. Accessed April 18, 2013.
- Headache hygiene tips. American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education. http://www.achenet.org/resources/trigger_avoidance_information/. Accessed April 17, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.