What Does A Migraine Aura Look Like?

Most people think of a migraine as excruciating pain, but pain is actually the third step of a migraine episode. Before the pain, a majority of migraine sufferers experience the pre-headache phase and the aura phase.

If you have ever heard of the aura phase, you’ve probably wondered, “What does a migraine aura look like?”

Although many people speak only of the aura’s affect on the eyes, the aura is much more than that. Migraineurs (those who have migraines) and their physicians know that some or all of the following may be part of an aura.

* auditory hallucinations – you hear sounds that aren’t there
* confusion in thinking – things aren’t making sense
* decrease in your hearing ability
* difficult finding the words you want
* dizziness
* increased feel and touch – or reduced feel and touch
* olfactory hallucinations – you smell odors that aren’t there
* partial paralysis
* sight loss – partial or blurry vision
* tingling or numbness of your face
* visual hallucinations – you see sights that aren’t there: flashing bright lights, wavy lines, spots, or zigzag lines

For now, however, we will look only at the last symptom in the list: visual hallucinations. What does a migraine aura look like in terms of its visual hallucinations?

Migraine Aura – Visual Hallucinations

The visual effects vary from person to person, although there are similarities. The changing activity of the nerves that coil around the blood vessels can produce partial loss of vision or intense colors and patterns.

1. For some people, the effects begin as a small dot in front of one or both eyes. The dot is a blind spot – a spot resembling the effect of accidentally looking toward a bare light bulb. Over a period of 30 to 60 minutes, the dot begins to grow. It flashes. Gradually, it changes shape, becoming an oval, a broken circle, or the shape of a V on its side. Off-center, the changing dot grows further and slowly moves to the peripheral vision. It creates repetitions of itself, chaining them together like linked circles, triangles, or other geometric patterns.

2. Other people describe a migraine aura as zigzag patterns in complimentary colors, such as red and green, yellow and blue. The colors look good together, and are pleasing to watch as long as the migraine pain has not begun. These people may also feel that they are looking through smoke or smog. At times, it seems their eyes are shaded by a mini-blind with a crescent shape.

3. Artistically minded migraineurs are likely to say that migraine aura looks like op-art paintings. They describe psychedelic, neon borders around a primary zigzag design in black and white. In fact, more than one sufferer has observed that, were it not for the onset of excruciating pain, the visual phenomenon would be very entertaining – something you might pay to witness!

4. One German artist, Delia Malchert, undertook to represent her aura’s visual hallucinations in paintings. Her migraine aura look like scotoma: points in her visual field where vision is absent or reduced. They usually begin with a small spot near or at the centre of her vision. The spot grows gradually, darkening her vision and developing a jagged, zigzag rim of black and white. The rim emits quick flashes as it rotates rapidly around the darkening center. Before long, the scintillating and darkening increase to become a temporary visual disorder that is almost like legal blindness. At that point in the aura, the center part of what she sees is very blurry. To her, the hallucinations of a migraine aura are irritating and annoying rather than entertaining, even though they are not always followed by migraine pain. She does admit, though, that they can be aesthetically pleasing.

What does a migraine aura look like?

These phrases sum up some of the many visual perceptions migraine sufferers may experience.

* lightning bolts like jagged “Z” patterns – most common
* psychedelic patterns of bright colors
* sparkling zigzag lines that rotate
* random patterns of curved and straight lines
* spider webs in front of the eyes
* lattice work, grids, or mini-blinds in front of the eyes
* a spiraling tunnel
* kaleidoscopes of changing colors and patterns
* objects seeming to be larger, smaller, nearer, or farther away
* objects seeming to be tilted
* double vision – seeing two of everything
* stationary objects appearing to move

Migraine aura sufferers agree that whatever the visual effects, they cannot be escaped. Closing the eyes or trying to look around the effects does not help.

You can get more information about migraine auras at http://www.migrainereliefblog.com. Dedicated to helping both those who suffer migraines as well as those who support them, Migraine Relief Blog offers information and practical help on migraines and their treatment.

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