I will always remember the first time I had a migraine with aura.
It was 1999, and my year-old son and I were visiting my parents for the weekend. We were at a toy store, and all of the sudden I couldn’t see part of the saleslady’s face. The upper right hand corner of her head was simply not visible and instead I saw flickering lights where her right eye and hairline should have been.
Over the course of the next few minutes the odd light pattern grew larger and took over my peripheral vision. I had to tell my folks that something wasn’t quite right, and so we hung out at the toy store until the colorful flashing lights went away, which they did after about 20 minutes.
To say that I was pretty spooked by what had just happened is an understatement. When we got back to the house, I called a local Ask-a-Nurse hotline to describe what had happened. The nurse said it sounded like a classic case of migraine with aura. She asked if I had ever had migraines before and I replied that I sure had, for years. But I had never had an aura before so this was new territory for me. And what was weird was that I had no migraine pain at all, but I felt as I typically did once a migraine had passed—worn out and kind of out of it.
At the advice of the nurse, when we got back home the following week I made an appointment with my primary care physician, who confirmed the diagnosis. But to be on the safe side he suggested that I follow up with an ophthalmologist, just to be sure there was nothing wrong with my eyes. I did as he suggested, and my eyes were found to be totally fine.
So I was left with the question: why, after years of getting one to two regular migraines a month, did I suddenly get one with an aura? And why didn’t I get any pain to go with it?
I did a lot of research, and I learned that out-of-whack hormones can cause migraines and migraine with aura. Most of the time the pretty flashing lights come right before the classic pain of a migraine, but rarely, for some people like myself they could come in lieu of the headache.