9 Important Migraine Terms you need to know

Published on: Modified on:



Migraines cause a variety of neurological disorders that differ for each individual. It helps to understand migraine terms used to describe symptoms that attack your muscles, vision, speech, and reaction to pain. Below are some useful migraine terms that apply to sufferers of migraines with aura, and without.

9 Important Migraine Terms you need to know- Migravent


Migraine attacks include several phases, the prodrome (earliest) stage, aura, migraine headache, and postdrome (aftereffect) stage. Not all migraine patients necessarily experience all of these stages, though.  Migraines that don’t include the aura stage are called, simply, migraines without aura. Likewise, migraine attacks that regularly follow an aura are called migraines with aura, or MA.

Scientists bother to make the distinction in migraine terms for several reason; first, it helps in finding the right migraine treatment to relieve symptoms associated with migraine aura; second, and most importantly, is that patients of migraines with aura are a high risk category for heart disease.  If you experience an aura before your migraine, then you are twice as likely to suffer heart attack or stroke as others who don’t get migraine with aura.

Symptoms of aura may include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Partial paralysis
  • Hallucinatory scents
  • Visual disturbances
  • Speech slurring
  • Disorientation
  • Vertigo

Silent migraine

Some people get migraine attacks that cause fatigue, nausea, and strange aura symptoms, but without getting headaches. Migraine attacks that don’t cause headaches are called “silent migraines.”

Basilar-type migraine

“Basilar” is a migraine term used to describe migraines with aura. With basilar-type migraines, neurological symptoms occur either at the base of the brain stem, or from both sides (hemispheres) at once.

For more on basilar-type migraines, read this- Understanding and Treating Basilar-Type Migraine (BTM)- Part I

Familial hemiplegic migraine

Migraine terms for hemiplegic migraines are migraine auras that cause stroke-like symptom.  If hemiplegic migraines are hereditary, then they are referred to as familial hemiplegic migraines. To a casual observer, somebody in the throes of a hemiplegic migraine may seem to be having an attack of epilepsy or stroke.


Diplopia (double vision) refers to one of several visual disorders that may occur during the migraine aura phase.  Of people who get basilar-type migraines, almost half of them experience diplopia.


Scotoma, in migraine terms, refers to strange, shifting lights that occur in your field of vision, such as oscillating crescent shapes, shimmering arcs, or zigzagging lines.

Migraine trigger

A migraine trigger is anything that increases your chances for a migraine attack. This is an often misunderstood migraine term, as people may think it implies cause. Migraine triggers don’t cause migraines. Rather, the more triggers you are exposed to on a daily basis, the likelier you are to have a migraine headache in the near future.

Migraine triggers differ for each person, but most include certain foods (wine, cheese, and cured meat), scents, weather patterns (humidity or cold), or hormonal fluctuations (pregnancy, menstruation).


If scents trigger migraines, then you have hyperosmia. People with hyperosmia react strongly to mostly chemical scents, such as those found in lotions, candles, and air fresheners, but some may also be sensitive to fresh flowers or cut grass.


If artificial lighting triggers migraines, then you are among a large number of sufferers who experience photophobia.  Exposure to bright fluorescent lights or even intense sunshine can induce eye pain and migraine attacks. Also, stark white backgrounds and severe black and white striped images (such as those seen in bar codes or optical illusions) are painful to the eyes.

Please tell us…

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

Share with your friends!

If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, Facebook, or Google+.

Like this? Read more:

Migraine Headache Frequently Asked Questions- the Top Ten List

Migraine Pop Quiz: How Well do you Understand your Headaches?


10 Terms Every Migraine Sufferer Should Know
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net