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Migraine Aura without Pain

The term “migraine” makes most people think of excruciating, debilitating head pain. And most migraine attacks do include severe head pain as a telltale symptom. However, some people experience migraine aura without pain. These episodes – which are still considered migraine attacks – are characterized and diagnosed by the other symptoms.


The most common migraine aura symptoms are those of visual aura although other senses, as in sensory aura, may be involved.

Diagnosing migraine aura without head pain

Migraine aura without pain, also called “Typical aura without headache”, has visual symptoms or changes in the other senses that fully go away after a short while. Typically symptoms gradually build up over five to 20 minutes – this is sometimes referred to as the “march” of symptoms – and then go away completely after about an hour. However, what sets it apart from other types of migraine with aura is that no head pain sets in within an hour of the aura symptoms. Also, no other disorder can be found to be blamed for the symptoms.

Who gets migraine aura without head pain?

Some people experience head pain with some of their migraine attacks and then have other attacks where the pain is absent. There are others that only have migraine aura without head pain with each attack. Many times as people age, their migraine attacks may change their characteristics. In some cases, the head pain may start to lose its strength or sometimes disappear completely while the aura symptoms may continue. Therefore, migraine with aura without head pain is more common in older people living with migraine. The most common symptoms among older people are visual aura symptoms more so than other symptoms. Some people only experience migraine aura without head pain and this occurs more often in men than in women.

Over 4500 individuals with migraine completed the 2017 Migraine In America survey. Regardless of migraine frequency (episodic to chronic), 37% of respondents reported experiencing aura during migraine attacks.

Common visual symptoms of migraine aura without headache

  • Seeing flashes or flickering light, the most common visual symptom of migraine
  • Seeing zigzag lines or waves, also called fortification illusions
  • Seeing spots, stars, halos, circles, lines, other shapes or colors
  • Blurry vision
  • Shimmering effects
  • Loss of vision, blind spots
  • Cloudy vision
  • Other vision changes
  • Seeing three-dimensional effects or geometric patterns
  • Seeing dark areas

Common sensory symptoms of migraine aura without head pain

  • Tingling or numbness that spreads or moves from one body part to another
  • Odd sensations in the hand
  • Pain on one side of head
  • Odd feelings in the arm
  • Weird feelings in the face
  • Different sensations or numbness in the tongue
  • Changes in the feet, such as a feeling of pins and needles
  • Sensations in the leg
  • Odd feelings in the whole body

Other symptoms of migraine aura without head pain

There are some symptoms that are more common in people who have migraine aura without head pain. For example, speech disturbances, which are officially called expressive aphasia or dysarthria. These problems cause difficulty speaking, writing or pronouncing words. Another very rare symptom that occurs most often in those who do not suffer from head pain is total global amnesia. In rare cases, the migraine sufferer will act normally, however an hour or two of their memory will be gone later and they will not be able to recall the prior event. Other symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain and vertigo.

Community experiences of migraine aura symptoms advocates frequently write about their varying migraine symptoms including aura. In this video, A Peek into the Unique World of Migraine, one advocate discusses her migraine aura symptoms including blurred vision, vertigo, and aphasia. Another advocate video describes the experience of speaking “gobblygook” during a migraine attack.


Written by: Otesa Miles | Last reviewed: August 2014
Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS). The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (beta version). Cephalalgia. 2013;33(9):629-808.