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Migraine With and Without Aura - Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on October 26, 2014

Migraine is a disorder that may appear to be trifle in comparison with giants like cancer and AIDS playing in the field of diseases; however it is enough to disturb the quality of life of the sufferer and it is equally necessary to look into its nature as it is necessary to study about the big diseases.

Migraine With Aura and Migraine Without Aura:

Typically migraine is of two types, viz. with aura and without aura. About 20-30% migraine patients suffer from migraine with aura. Migraine with aura is comparatively new term for classic migraine or migraineur.

Aura may occur before or during the migraine attack. The early symptoms are also called a prodrome.

Cause of Migraine:

It is not yet sure what causes migraine with aura. It is believed that at least two brain chemicals viz. serotonin and dopamine play a major role. The theory is, the way these chemicals regulate brain functions is disturbed by something which may cause the brain and immune system of the body to overreact. During this, there is a flood of immune response cells which flows towards the brain through the blood vessels. The blood vessels in the brain open wider to make room for these cells. Eventually more chemicals are secreted to help control the muscles of the vessels. The vessels thus dilate and constrict. What is resulted is a severe throbbing headache.

Factors believed to be responsible for causing migraine with aura are genetic factors and being overweight. Certain substances, behaviors as well as environment also may trigger migraine. It is sure that migraine often runs down in families. Usually it starts in childhood and worsens in adolescence. It is interesting and enigmatic that boys suffer from migraines more than girls, while adult women suffer from migraines more than adult men. Migraine attacks lessen in number over time and usually become rare after the age of 50.

How ever severe it is, good news is migraine with aura is not fatal.

Migraine Symptoms:

Headache is a common migraine symptom, regardless of aura. Some children are lucky enough to suffer only from aura and not headache. The pain generally occurs in the front portion of head on one or both sides of the temples. It may be steady or throbbing and may last from four to 72 hours.

Other common migraine symptoms with or without aura are nausea, vomiting, irritability, yawning, hypotension, sensitivity to light, sound and/or motion, and darkness under the eyes. Migraine with aura presents additional symptoms which typically start about 30 minutes before the headache. They are called prodrome. The aura or prodrome may last normally for 5 to 20 minutes or it may go on even after the headache settles.

Symptoms of Aura:

Symptoms of aura are blind spots or scotomas, flashy lights, zigzag patterns or non-existing things before eyes, blindness in half the visual field in one or both eyes, weakness and feeling prickling skin.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraine Pathophysiology

Treatment of Migraine With Aura

Migraine with aura is treated keeping two goals, viz. relieving symptoms and preventing further attacks. For relieving symptoms doctors recommend actions like staying in a quiet and dark room, placing cold compresses or pressure on painful areas, taking pain-relieving medicines like aspirin, acetaminophen or acetaminophen-codeine combination, using NSAIDs for relieving pain, and so on.

Migraine treatment to prevent further attacks includes medications like beta-blockers like atenolol, propranolol or timolol, anti-depressants like amitriptyline and nortriptyline, ergot derivatives like methysergide, antihistamines like cyproheptadine and anticonvulsants like valproic acid.

Migraine Diary:

Keeping migraine diary is useful and recommended by nearly all doctors. In the diary you are supposed to note down everything which happens before, during and after the migraine attack and with the help of these notes, you can find out what are triggers for your migraine.


Psychological triggers may include stress, anxiety, depression, and even grief over losing some near and dear one. These factors are beyond one’s control; however the response may be controlled by way of learning relaxation, biofeedback and self-hypnosis. These work very well especially in children.

Physical triggers may include illness, extreme tiredness and missing meals. Also, physical exertion, head injuries and motion may be triggers for migraine. Sometimes menstruation too acts as a trigger. You can avoid these triggers or responses thereof, though sometimes not fully, but at least to some extent.

Sometimes environmental factors too act as triggers for migraine like flickering and fluorescent lights, alterations in altitude or air pressure and even bold visual patterns. You can note down what amongst these trigger your migraine and then eliminate or avoid them.


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