When Migraine Aura with Aphasia leaves you Lost for Words

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Complex migraine with aura, like the basilar migraine, causes stroke-like symptoms that literally take your words away- aphasia is one of several disturbing symptoms of migraine aura. Learn all about aphasic migraine causes and treatments.


A migraine attack is not just a headache

Millions of people suffer debilitating migraine headaches, but few non-migraineurs understand that the throbbing headache, as disabling as it is, is one of many migraine symptoms.  When migraine attacks strike, they often cause stomach-clenching nausea, uncontrolled vomiting, diarrhea, sharp sensitivity to lights, sounds, and scents, fatigue, and irritability.  So debilitating is migraine illness that many long-time chronic migraine sufferers have difficulty keeping a job, performing daily chores, and making appointments.  Depression and anxiety are common comorbidities of migraine illness.

Why do Migraines cause Nausea and Vomiting?

Migraine aura- an assault on the senses

Migraines are split into two general categories- migraines with aura (MA), and migraines without aura.  An aura happens in the prodrome phase of a migraine attack- the minutes leading up to a migraine.  Auras serve as a warning to the patient of the impending migraine, and usually occur about fifteen minutes before the migraine strikes.  Migraine auras can cause visual hallucinations, usually described as bright flickering lights, glowing crescent-shaped forms, and rainbow zigzag images. Other migraine aura symptoms are vertigo (dizziness), olfactory hallucinations (imagined burnt scents), temporary partial paralysis, and aphasia.

Go Ask Alice: Migraine Auras in Wonderland

Aphasia- what is it?

Aphasia is defined as a communication disorder that impairs one’s ability to process language, both in written and spoken words.  People with aphasia have trouble putting words together to speak or write, understanding what others are saying, and comprehending what they read.  When they try to speak, words come out garbled and unintelligible. This does not mean they are unintelligent- aphasia usually results from damage to the left hemisphere of the brain.  Many stroke victims suffer aphasia causing partial or complete loss of speech.

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Aphasic migraines

Migraines that cause aura with aphasia are usually complex basilar migraines caused by a disorder of a major artery at the brainstem or base of the brain.  TV reporter Serene Branson suffered a complex migraine (also called a complicated migraine) with aura on the air while covering the Grammys.  Spectators believed her to be having a stroke, so common are the symptoms of migraine aura aphasia.  Other names for basilar migraines are:

  • Basilar artery migraines
  • Basilar migraine headache
  • Basilar-type migraine
  • Bickerstaff syndrome
  • Brainstem migraine
  • Vertebro-basilar migraine

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Symptoms of complex migraine often include pounding headache, blurred vision, temporary partial blindness, temporary partial paralysis on one side, loss of muscular strength, difficulty walking in a straight line, and garbled speech.

Aphasia treatments

If you suffer any of the symptoms of aphasia- difficulty talking clearly or understanding what others are saying- contact emergency services immediately so that a stroke may be ruled out.  If migraines are the cause of aphasia, then a headache specialist might prescribe preventative or abortive migraine treatments to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.

Additionally, natural nutrients for migraines may significantly improve neurological health. Some excellent sources of natural migraine nutrients include coenzyme Q10, butterbur, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and magnesium.

Read more about migraine with aura:

Migraine Headaches and Dizziness- Stop the Ride, I want to get off!

Migraine Aura Video Simulations: You Tube’s Top 10

Migraine Aura and Hot Flashes- Treat that Hot Head ASAP

What’s that Smell? Migraine Sensitivity and Olfactory Auras


Basilar Artery Migraines: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatments


Aphasia symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment on MedicineNet.com

Aphasia and Migraine- In the Fringes

Migraine Chapter, Migraine With Aura, B.Todd Troost