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Diagnosis of Migraine & Headache Types

Migraine aura, or just normal bouts of weirdness?

  • By another

    Hi. I’m 27 yeas old, and throughout my life, mostly as a child, I have had occasional moments during which I’ve experienced one of a variety of weird but very short hallucinations. They don’t bother me, because they’re so rare and brief, so I’ve never felt a need to bother a doctor about it. However, I’m still curious to know what’s going on: am I a very lucky sufferer of aura-without-migraine who gets ridiculously tame episodes, or does everyone in the world actually experience these at some point in their lives and I’m being silly for thinking there’s anything special about it? As a kid I just assumed they happened to everyone, but after I had a frightening episode as a teen (see first entry in my second list below), I started to wonder if they were actually migraines.

    Here’s a list of common experiences. Note these always occur in isolation of one another:
    – A flashing orb of light with jagged edges pulses intensely in a large section of my visual field, sometimes drifting around, sometimes not. Lasts a few seconds to a minute.
    – A strong, shooting pain on one side of my crown or upper forehead. Lasts a few seconds.
    – Depersonalisation. This takes one of three forms:
    1. I become light-headed and the world will seem “realer” than usual; colours become stronger, objects seem more… object-like, etc, and I don’t feel quite like I’m really there, while simultaneously feeling like I’m as hyper-real as everything else. Lasts a few seconds to a minute.
    2. I will feel like I’m only a few inches tall, even though I will continue to view the world around me as though I was normal height. Tends to be accompanied by light-headedness. Lasts a few seconds to a minute.
    3. A building I am very familiar with, most commonly my grandparent’s old house, for some reason (and no, I never had a traumatic experience there; my grandparents were wonderful and I loved visiting them), will have an “alternate universe” version of itself, which, the first time I experience it, will feel totally unfamiliar to me, like I’m in a stranger’s house; but which, on subsequent episodes, will start to feel familiar — not like it’s the place it actually is, but like I’ve become friends with that stranger and visited their house several times. It’s hard to describe. It feels similar to looking at one of those optical illusions like the Necker Cube or Rubens Vase that can be viewed one of two ways, except I can’t switch between them at will. This mostly only happened to me as a child, and was quite long-lasting — minutes to an hour, maybe more.

    And here’s a list of notable, unusually intense episodes, all of which occurred roughly during the same year or two in my mid/late teens:
    – I woke up to a flashing light, larger and stronger than any I’d had before, and lasting for far longer than it usually would — it felt like 20 minutes, but was probably closer to five or ten. When it finally subsided, the entirety of the right-hand side of my visual field — the area the light had previously occupied — was gone. I was totally blind on that side, in both eyes. My vision returned to normal after another twenty minutes or so.
    – For a period of a few months, I was very easily triggered into having olfactory hallucinations. Most commonly these were the smell of metal, blood, or well-hung meat. On one memorable occasion I smelt cooked, rotting fish all day after being triggered by my dad’s kipper breakfast. These hallucinations were strong, couldn’t be shaken off by real scents or fresh air, and would last for hours. After a few months of this, they just stopped happening to me, as suddenly as they’d started.
    – A headache that lasted all day. Probably a coincidence, but apart from the brief pains I described earlier, I never get headaches, so it was notable. I don’t remember what sort of pain it was, just that it was unbearably strong and didn’t seem to be triggered by anything.
    – A jagged, iridescent strip appeared in front of me and removed a dot from the dead centre of my visual field — such a small dot that I might not have noticed anything was gone had I not been reading at the time. Neither object changed in size or shape, although the strip sort of shimmered. Lasted a minute or two, vision returned to normal afterwards. This wasn’t a particularly “intense” hallucination, but I’m listing it here because I’ve only experienced it once. Based on what I’ve read and seen online, I think this was similar to a scintillating scotomata.

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  • By Katie M. Golden Moderator

    Another,
    Definitely NOT going to delete this post!! I have some answers for you!

    1. You are most likely experiencing Retinal Migraines when you experience the flashy zig-zag shapes. These typically last 10 minutes to an hour and you don’t get a headache with them. While I suffer from Migraines with aura, my dad only gets these Retinal Migraines. He never gets the severe pain like I do, just the visual aura. Here’s some more information on retinal Migraines:
    https://migraine.com/migraine-types/retinal-migraine/

    2. You are not alone in having olfactory hallucinations either. Many people smell things that aren’t there before they get a Migraine. Do you ever get these smells and then have a visual aura? Sometimes I smell cigarette smoke, but I’ve heard of others smelling the same thing you do. And here’s some info on that:
    https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-symptoms-olfactory-hallucinations/

    3. The last thing is that you are having symptoms of Alice in Wonderland syndrome. It typically begins in children and can last through adulthood. With this, you may feel smaller or larger than your surroundings. Here’s a recent article about it in the NY Times:
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/23/alice-in-wonderland-syndrome/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    So now that you know you aren’t making these things up and others experience them too, I encourage you to go see a neurologist. With these types of symptoms, you should probably have a full neuro exam just to make sure that nothing else is going on. But most likely you’ll be fine. Depending on how frequent your symptoms are, there may be preventative meds your doctor could put you on. You can also try to control the symptoms by figuring out what your triggers are and your doctor can help with that.

    Let me know if you have any questions!
    -Katie

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  • By another

    Thank you for putting so much effort into a response, but I’m afraid I’ve wasted your time. I have no problems — these things were always rare, even more so now I’m an adult, and are *extremely* brief when they do happen — once or twice a year at the most, for about three seconds. They’ve never bothered me in the slightest. There’s definitely no need to see a doctor.

    I was just asking out of self-indulgent curiosity, I’m sorry.

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  • By Katie M. Golden Moderator

    Another,
    No need to apologize.
    Even if these incidents were few and far betweeen, I hope it helps to know that you are not alone in what you’ve experienced!
    -Katie

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  • By Khadija

    I would agree not a stupid post at all! Likely many here of similar symptoms. At time I feel crazy wondering if brain sensations are real. From time to time I will see stars just appear, other times I feel electrical pulses in my brain, and few months I ago I felt I just jumped into my body or some type of shell, this occurred right before a very painful migraine.

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  • By Yue

    Not a stupid post. I also get short lived, strange sensations like yourself, but just because they are short lived does not make them scary or something not to be concerned about. I hope that you will see a doctor so they can investigate as it definitely sounds like aura symptoms.

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  • By Eagle6205

    I agree even as I read your post I actually got the same dot dead center of my left eye. Within seconds had a small sharp pain in the front of my forehead, I guess I didnt really look into what olfactory was and never really though to. I have had on a few occasions extreme heightened sense of smell so much that within a few minutes it gave me a headache or perhaps it was all part of my migrainous Condition. Growing up I remember often with a memory of a place that came into mind I would instantly smell exactly what it smelled like that day at that time. Perhaps smell is linked to memory and somehow memory is linked to migraine.

    I dont get the big world small world thing however I do tend to have alot of hallucinations where I see a spider run across my desk and then it vanishes or little black bug on the wall its there and then its gone. Ive even experienced at one point the screen and text on it of my computer becoming a ripply wave and it appears to bend at times. And the coolest one Ive had so far but a bit trippy was the walls breathing which lasted maybe a minute or two.

    Great post your not alone in this and some things are not bothersome enough to people to have them checked out. If you live with it and your happy and have an idea of what it is theres nothing wrong with that. I just hope it continues for you without pain.

    Best of luck to you.

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  • By Windy

    Pls help! I’ve had migraines without aura since I was 16. I’m now 48. The last 5 years my migraines have gone chronic and refractory. I have been fighting a beast for the last 1.5 weeks. Saturday my husband and I were to attend a wedding we were both looking forward to attending. Needless to say, another event I couldn’t go to because my head hurt so badly. However, while I was trying to get dressed, I started having these sensations I’ve never experienced. I’m not sure how to describe them, but I’ll try. I didn’t see lights or sparkles. However, I had tunnel vision, literally. Everything in my peripheral vision was blurred and as I talked to my husband it appeared he was very far away from me when in fact he wasn’t. I didn’t see his entire body, just his face. And I was pleading with him with my eyes to try to see me because it felt like I had a mask on. I asked him how my speech was, was it slurred, etc and he said no. I asked him if I was making sense in what I was saying. He didn’t understand what I was trying to describe but I was speaking coherently, not jibberish or off topic. The pain was excruciating and the vomiting and light headedness did me in. I had three seizures in 2013 but was hospitalized for testing and no seizure disorder was found. I have not had any other problems with those since my medications were changed. This experience was nothing like I had with the seizures and not like anything I’ve ever had. My first question is is it possible/probable to have a migraine w aura when I’ve never had one before? If yes, does this mean I’m transitioning into migraines w aura or could this just be a one time event? Lastly, does anyone have any idea what I’m describing? Is it a visual thing, a hallucination (that would be just frickin great!! Like I need to add that to my list), or what? Please, someone help me understand.

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