What are migraines with visual aura?


Migraine is a common and debilitating neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. In addition to the intense and throbbing headache, that characterizes this condition, many migraine sufferers also experience sensory disturbances known as auras. These auras can manifest in auditory, olfactory, or visual sensations and often precede the characteristic headache of a migraine. However, they can also occur independently at times.

The appearance of visual auras during a migraine episode is believed to be related to changes in electrical activity and blood flow in the brain. These changes can affect nerve cells and lead to the emergence of visual symptoms. Although the exact cause of migraines and visual auras is not yet fully understood, it is believed that genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the development of this condition.

A typical image associated with sensory auras of migraines may involve a blurry area with jagged edges, which may or may not be coloured. These images are often perceived as if they are moving or progressing, and in some cases, they can occupy the entire visual field for several minutes.

These symptoms can be distressing and confusing for those experiencing them for the first time. They can last from a few minutes to an hour before the headache appears, although not all migraine sufferers experience visual aura. Some only have migraines without aura, while others may experience both migraine with and without aura in different episodes.

It is crucial to note that even if you have experienced migraines for years, the sudden onset of an aura represents a change in the migraine pattern and should be a reason to consult a neurologist. This specialist will evaluate your situation and, in some cases, may refer you to an ophthalmologist to rule out other possible causes or related conditions. The purpose of this additional evaluation is to ensure that the symptoms you experience are indeed attributable to migraines and to exclude any other ocular or neurological problems.

In conclusion, each person may experience sensory auras differently, so the symptoms can vary from one individual to another. If you experience these symptoms, it is essential to seek appropriate medical advice to receive an accurate diagnosis and establish an appropriate treatment plan to manage your migraines and improve your quality of life.

Dr. Alberto Lozano, ophthalmologist at Barraquer Ophthalmology Centre