A silent migraine is a term used to describe a migraine that doesn’t accompany a headache.
Although this phenomenon sounds unusual, it’s quite common. Silent migraines have also been referred to as sans-migraine, eye migraine, visual migraine, painless migraine, ocular migraine, acephalgic migraine, and migraine equivalent. Migraine aura without headache is the most common term.
“Migraine aura” describes symptoms that accompany a headache. These often refer to visual symptoms. You may see “zig zags” or flashing lights, and experience dizziness or vertigo. While migraine headaches are a common affliction affecting millions, research suggests only 15% of migraine sufferers experience the aura. Multiple symptoms may occur such as indictments of slurred speech, ringing in the ears, a numb sensation, and bodily aches. The occurrence of migraine aura is more common in men and in later stages of life.
Misdiagnosis of Silent Migraines
Because symptoms of silent migraine are so varied and may share similarities to other conditions, silent migraine can often be misdiagnosed. Because the patient doesn’t present symptoms with a migraine, migraine goes unconsidered and thus undiagnosed. One patient described his attack as a mini-stroke. After this, he was diagnosed incorrectly with a number of conditions, including depression, hypoglycemia, meniere’s disease, and even fibromyalgia. This is only one example of how silent migraine is easily mistaken for other diseases.
Those individuals who experience “normal” migraines can also experience silent migraines, with an estimated 20% of migraineurs having experienced a silent migraine. If you’ve had a migraine history before, you can recognize the symptoms. However, you may not hear about silent migraines and many migraine books don’t include specific sections on the condition. For a patient looking for help, this can be quite frustrating and leave them feeling helpless. It’s important to get the right diagnosis so you can properly manage it.
Getting Diagnosed Correctly
The challenge for diagnosis is the need to rule out other potentially-serious conditions. Stroke occurrence must be addressed, and not ignored. The other symptoms, such as visual disturbances and hallucinations, can be due to migraine aura, but it could also be your eyes need checking. Other disorders presenting the same symptoms can include seizure disorders, and any individual with these symptoms should speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
To ensure you receive a correct and quick diagnosis, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and get a family and personal medical history. Migraines are inherited and your doctor needs to know if there’s a history of migraines in your family. Your doctor may be likely to suspect silent migraine. You should have a list of your other symptoms prepared for your doctor to help him with your diagnosis. These symptoms can include irritability, euphoria, frequent yawning, neck stiffness, and the inability to find the correct word when speaking. Your doctor may order tests such as MRIs, blood tests, CT scans, and eye exams.
Treating Silent Migraine
Migraine aura without headache isn’t something to take lightly, as the condition can be debilitating. A migraine is actually a neurological disease and a headache is only one symptom. However, you have several treatment options. If the symptoms appear for the first time, please see your doctor as soon as possible, so you can begin a treatment process to help you get back your life.