What is migraine aura?

Posted 7 October 2022

Aura can affect people with migraine in many different ways

Around a quarter of people with migraine experience aura

What is the aura?

Migraine is so much more than just a headache. Many of those affected will experience one or more of the other symptoms that can occur at any point during the attack.

One common symptom that be alarming is the ‘aura’, which affects around a quarter of people with migraine.
Aura symptoms typically occur before the headache phase begins, although a small number of people will experience aura without a headache occurring at all (acephalgic migraine).

Aura symptoms can be visual, sensory or may even affect your strength. They can also be sequential, such as starting with visual disturbances, followed by a tingling sensation in the limbs and face, before causing speech difficulties.

While you are experiencing aura, always avoid any activities that you feel may be dangerous.

Visual aura

This is the most common and well-studied type of aura.

The symptoms can be quite alarming, with patients often and understandably feeling worried when they experience them for the first time.

Visual aura can take many forms but, typically, patients see a zig-zag line starting on one side which moves across the field of vision before fading away. Patients may also see sparkling, flashing or diamond-shaped lights, which some people liken to looking into a kaleidoscope. Some people notice a blurring or a dark spot in the centre of their vision.

The symptoms usually change in shape, size and location. If the symptoms are stationary, for example flashing spots or zigzags which do not move or grow in size, they are less likely to represent migraine aura.
Visual aura generally lasts between five and 60 minutes in a typical patient, although some patients may have persistent visual symptoms. Sometimes after these symptoms go away, there may be temporary dark holes in the vision where patients are not able to see (scotoma).


Find out about other types of aura, including sensory and motor aura, with our Migraine and Aura factsheet.

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