What is a migraine Aura?

What is an Aura?
There are several stages to a Migraine attack. Each Migraine patient is different, and each of their attacks are usually different too. A Migraine patient will not necessarily experience every stage with every attack. The stage that is least frequently experienced is Aura.

Aura is the second stage of an attack. Similar to prodrome, it is a sort of premonition that a Migraine is beginning. Most Migraineurs usually experience aura for a short period of time (transient aura) just before the headache stage of their attack, and it often continues through the first part of the pain phase of the attack, although some Migraines may be acephalgic (without headache) . Some auras may be felt during the headache. An aura that continues more than a week without any radiological evidence of its cause is called Persistent Aura Without Infarction.

There are different types of auras. The most common are:

  • Sensory
  • Aphasic
  • Motor

Why does an aura occur?
An aura is thought to occur because the electrical system of the brain is malfunctioning in a very focal, specific manner. This malfunction is called Spreading Cortical Depression.

What does an aura feel like?
A sensory aura may involve the centers of the brain that are responsible for vision, smelling, hearing, smelling, tasting or even the sense of touch. Sensory auras are usually hallucinogenic in nature — something sensory will be experienced that is not actually there. The most common sensory aura is visual aura.

Aphasic aura involves the part of the brain responsible for language. An aphasic aura may render the Migraineur unable to speak, to understand, or to both speak and understand language.


A Motor aura may involve weakness or paralysis of areas of the body. Usually this weakness or paralysis is confined to one side of the body — unilateral — instead of affecting both sides — bilateral.

Alice in wonderland Syndrome is a specific type of aura in which the Migraineur has an altered sense of self or the outside world. They may feel larger or smaller than normal. They may feel a sense that their surroundings have changed – hallways may become longer, the ground may seem too close. Time may feel altered. Distortions or metamorphosis is common — the Migraineur senses the perceived change as it occurs — a hand grows, a foot shrinks. The ground may feel spongy instead of solid.

My Story:
I suffer very profound auras that sometimes resemble a mild stroke. Although a Migraine attack disturbs my life more, the aura phase is more dangerous – especially when it hits you driving down the freeway at 70 mph. In my case aura is the biggest reason I no longer am able to work as an Emergency Dispatcher. It’s dangerous to realize you can’t write or speak when you’re in the middle of an emergency. It’s also the most difficult part of Migraine to explain. The positive aspect of having Migraine with aura? It’s very, very easy to diagnose.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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