Migraine aura

Top © Roger Heaton, bottom © Delia Malchert Flimmerskotom

The day before last I had the strangest experience. I was eating dinner with Edie after putting June to bed, when I suddenly saw a strange shimmering in my field of vision. The edges slowly crystallized and spread into an oval shape, and the middle was like rippling water. It was so palpable and defined, I could look right at it as if it were floating in the air in front of me. I called James and tried to describe this odd ice-crystal, rainbow kaleidoscope I was experiencing, and when it didn't go away after about ten minutes I started to panic a little. I've never seen anything like it, and when my left arm got tingly I managed to remain somewhat calm but had a moment where I thought, is it possible I'm having a stroke, at my age, with my good health? I called my neighbor Amy and she came right over, and sat down at the computer to look up symptoms on Web MD. I put Edie in front of the TV and luckily she seemed pretty unconcerned about what the heck was going on. Amy's husband checked in soon after and asked if I'd ever had a migraine. I never have, but lo and behold it turns out I was getting all of the classic warning signs: the aura, the numbness, the slight confusion. I never knew about migraines manifesting such specific visual symptoms (mine was a scintillating scotoma apparently) so it was pretty terrifying before I learned what was happening (I did briefly go to the dark side of imagining MRIs and brain tumors, I will admit). Thankfully the aura went away after 45 minutes (which is about how long it took my doctor to call me back, not a great sign...). She told me to see an ophthalmologist just in case; I went yesterday and all is fine, as I suspected it would be.

After some more research this morning I've been introduced to a whole new world which is fairly interesting (if not a little cheesy) visually. There's even a migraine aura foundation, complete with a section on migraine art. Looking at the images I felt such a sense of sadness for people who suffer from recurrent migraines paired with the classic crushing pain. I only experienced an Acephalgic Migraine, which is where you have all of the symptoms minus the agony of the headache, such a relief. So now the somewhat debilitating nausea and lack of appetite over the last week, combined with the trippy visions from yesterday, make a bit more sense. I was kind of dizzy yesterday, and my eyes felt sensitive, but I'm glad to say the least that it didn't result in a full-blown episode. As a photographer though I have to say having my vision go all crazy on me was particularly scary. I think I need to get out of town and go sit and stare at the ocean for a while. I'm glad we're leaving on Sunday to join my family at the beach, I need a break from the usual to get me back to my old non-migraine aura self.


Anonymous said…
Hi Elizabeth,
Sounds like you did indeed have "aura without migraine". The most common cause of this like any other migraine is stress..

However (I don't want to alarm you!) a new migraine in the presence of someone who has never had one warrents an MRI or CT of the brain..just to be sure!

Talk to your doc..I practice in the field of headaches and see this happen occasionally so it is not all that rare.
raphael said…
I've had this same thing most of my life, never really looked up the cause as my mother had the same thing... but I was curious today... and came across your story. It is awesome! I think it's pretty cool to have the crazy zig zags and colors, some people pay for drugs that make our vision do that! lol. I just wrote pretty much the same note on my facebook, I like the pictures you found of it. Helps a lot to explain the unexplainable. Take care and thanks for sharing :)

raphael said…
Oh and also, my condition has never worsened, I'm 31 now. I've never felt any sort of pain from them, my mother actually paints them in to her art! I've had them come while playing sports, walking, driving, reading... random events, but the only common factor was that I very warm at the time. Summer time in california. I also do not get them very often. So hopefully this helps as well. :)
Hi Raphael,

Thanks for your comments. It really is amazing visually, and now that I know it's not a threat to my health I'd be interested to experience it again--I love that your mother uses them in her art. I haven't had one since, and I'm sure it happened because of stress. We'll see if it ever happens again!

Popular Posts