When is a migraine not considered as a headache? Although this sounds more of a riddle, this question has some serious answer. Surprisingly, a migraine condition may occur without the pulsing sensation in the head. In fact, almost 3% to 5% of individuals suffering from chronic migraine usually experience it without headache and this is known as silent migraine. Most of the time, this condition is experienced by adults who have already gone through full migraine symptoms along with severe headache. In other cases, the condition is experienced by individuals aged 40 and above. Silent migraines are often considered as:
- Acephalgic migraine
- Late onset migraine accompaniment, which usually occur when an individual reaches the age of 40
- Isolated visual migraine
- Migraine dissocie
- Typical aura with the absence of headache
- Migraine variant or migraine equivalent
In order to understand the condition further, it would be helpful if you know more about migraine and the progress of the episodes.
A classic migraine condition has four phases including:
- Prodrome or Preheadache: about 30% to 40% of individuals who are suffering from migraine can easily recognize the symptoms that usually occur several hours or days prior to headache. These are known as prodrome symptoms, which includes stiffness of the muscles particularly in the neck, food cravings, irritability or sudden mood changes, diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination.
- Aura: this is the term often used for the distinctive symptoms that individuals experience even before having a headache. The most common symptoms of this phase include visual disturbances like seeing zigzagging or wavy lines, flashing lights and other visual changes. Additional symptoms of aura include hallucinations, sense of numbness or tingling sensation in the face and/or extremities, sensitive sense of sound or scent, vertigo or confusion. About 20% of individuals suffering from migraine usually experience premonitory auras. Although some individuals do not go through the aura phase before experiencing a headache.
- Postdrome or Postheadache: this term is used for the symptoms that occur after or once the headache is relieved. However, you should know that it could usually take several hours or even days to be able to recover from migraine headache. Postdrome symptoms usually include a sense of euphoria, depression or difficulty thinking or concentrating.
However, since migraines may come in varying types, not all four phases can be experienced at all times. So when do silent migraine occur? This is when the migraine attack does not come with headache. Although silent migraines often involve prodrome and postdrome symptoms, the phase that distinctly defines a headache may be absent and this is the throbbing, nauseating, one-sided head pain.
A silent migraine usually comes with visual changes, which is considered as the aura phase. an individual who is experiencing such condition usually notice visual symptoms known as “positive features” that includes tiny glittering lights or crazy flashes, shimmering stripes or mirages or colors or patters that suddenly appear from nowhere. Most of the time, the symptoms of the aura phase may also involve numbness in the feet, hands, face, arms and legs or pins and needles sensations.
This type of migraine condition may occur for several seconds to hours. It may occur as a single event or it may recur several times in a day. Although no headache is experienced, individuals suffering from silent migraine may not find it easy to deal with. The visual symptoms that accompany the condition can be very disrupting and this can affect daily activities, aside from the fact that it can be downright frightening and disconcerting.
In some cases, visual effects can be so spectacular that it could make the individual feel like hallucinating. In case you are experiencing any of the symptoms of such condition like visual aura, make sure that you consult your physician as soon as possible. Depending on the presented symptoms, your physician may conduct several testing in order to rule out any other serious conditions like seizures or transient ischemic attack or mini stroke.
Despite the name, silent migraines are not silent at all times. Take note that the frequency of the attacks or episodes can greatly affect your daily life and it would be very helpful if the condition is examined and medications are prescribed in order to alleviate the symptoms. It might also be helpful if the triggering factors of the condition are determined. It can be due to skipping meals, lack of sleep, excessive emotion or stress and the consumption of certain foods.
If you can diligently avoid these trigger factors, then you do not have to opt for any medications and you can easily prevent the symptoms of the condition. However, in case your condition requires the consumption of medications, you may opt for OTC anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, medications for high blood pressure like calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers or antidepressants. All these can be very helpful in alleviating the symptoms of your condition.