If you’ve never had a migraine, you may think of them as just another headache. If you have, you know just how debilitating they can be. Migraines come in two major types, with and without aura. However, there is a third type, the silent migraine. Also known as an ocular or acephalgic migraine, the silent migraine has many of the same symptoms as a migraine with aura, except it doesn’t develop into a headache.
It is estimated that approximately 1% of migraine sufferers experience silent migraines, but the number may be significantly higher, as they occur infrequently and don’t last very long, so sufferers of silent migraines learn to work around them and do not seek help. However, it is important to be aware that migraine auras, whether they occur with or without a headache, are linked with increased risk of stroke. One study conducted over 15 years and involving 28,000 women at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that migraine auras were second only to high blood pressure as the highest risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Other studies have shown that the risk is even greater for women who smoke or take hormonal contraception.
Though the headache is the part of a migraine that most sufferers find the hardest part to deal with, silent migraines can be just as devastating. Silent migraines are characterized by an aura that commonly occurs before a migraine headache, but without the headache. A migraine aura, whether or not it is accompanied by a headache, is essentially a sensory disturbance. The most common auras are visual, and can involve blind spots, tunnel vision, blurred vision, or spots or patterns that partially block the field of vision. However, other senses can be affected and can include a wide range of other symptoms, including ringing or buzzing in the ears, numbness or tingling, or more rarely, phantom smells or tastes.
Ocular migraines may be accompanied by many of the other symptoms of migraine, such as nausea, vomiting, heightened sensitivity, fatigue, numbness, and in some cases, even loss of consciousness. Ocular migraines don’t typically last long, usually only about 20-30 minutes, but during that time, the sufferer is unable to see and may be uncoordinated and is generally unable to function effectively. This makes many tasks, including driving, difficult at best, and often impossible.
It is important to seek medical attention if you suddenly start getting ocular migraines, especially for those over the age of 60, as they can indicate a stroke and detached retina. Even healthcare professionals have a hard time distinguishing a migraine aura from a stroke. The important difference is speed of onset. Migraine start slowly and build over a period of time, while stroke symptoms come on more quickly.
The nature of the symptoms is also a clue. Where migraine auras usually involve seeing or experiencing sensations, symptoms of stroke more often involve losing muscle strength, ability to speak clearly, or other normal, everyday skills.
Just like other migraine sufferers, those with ocular migraines can often reduce the frequency of attacks by identifying their triggers. There are many potential migraine triggers, including certain foods and food additives, smells, weather changes, hormone fluctuations, and sleep disturbances.
No matter what type of migraine you may be experiencing, or what might be triggering them, chiropractic care may be able to help. A chiropractor can help you identify your main triggers, help you develop strategies for avoiding them, and help you reduce your sensitivity to them.
For more information on how a chiropractor can help you manage your migraines, call Chatfield Chiropractic today on (03) 9303 9952 in Roxburgh Park, or (03) 9746 3977 in Sunbury to schedule an appointment to find out how we can help.