Facebook Pixel

Why Can’t I Type or Speak? Scary Symptoms that Can Accompany Migraine with Aura

Rate This
Migraine  related image Photo: Getty Images

Some people who suffer from migraines also get what is called a migraine aura, usually right before the pain hits. The minority of people who experience migraine auras do not go on to have the traditional migraine pain, but most do. It is estimated that about 10 percent of migraines are accompanied by auras.

Migraine auras can present as bright, flashing lines that usually start out as a very small visual disturbance in the middle or side of the visual field and then slowly grow into the shape of half or full circles. The lines may look like a zigzag pattern filled with color and may interfere with the ability to see, or they can be off to the side in the peripheral vision area. They will often last for about five to 60 minutes and can make people feel dizzy or confused.

I’ve had migraine with auras here and there over the past dozen or so years. The first one scared the bejabbers out of me. Since then, I’ve done enough research on them to pretty much know what symptoms might be headed my way. And from what I’ve read, some of them are pretty scary.

For example, some people who are in the throes of a migraine with aura might exhibit symptoms that are very similar to those who are experiencing a stroke.

According to the LiveStrong.com website, some people who are having an aura will suddenly have difficulty with language. The technical term for this is aphasia. It’s unusual, but it happens, and it’s definitely something to be aware of if you have this type of migraine.

This aphasia can take on many forms, including being unable to speak correctly or form sentences, not being able to read, forgetting how to spell words or write emails or texts, and misunderstanding what others are saying to you.

You can see why this might lead friends and family members, as well as the person having the migraine with aura to think that he or she is having a stroke. Case in point: reporter Serene Branson who suddenly started slurring her words and speaking jibberish during a live telecast of the Grammy Awards in February, 2011. Many people instantly decided the young woman had suffered from a stroke on-air, but after undergoing tests it was determined that she had experienced a migraine with aura.

I feel for Branson, because I too have experienced aphasia during migraine with auras, although admittedly not in front of millions of viewers on national television. In one case, I was in the middle of an attack at a grocery store last year while shopping with my two sons. I decided to text my husband to let him know I was not feeling well and to get ready to take over with the boys when we got home so I could rest. But no matter how hard I tried, I found I couldn’t spell simple words. I asked my 12-year-old son how to spell “these” and he looked at me like I was from outer space. After we got home I went upstairs to lie down for about 30 minutes and once the aura passed I felt completely better and checked my outbox for the text message I had sent to my husband. It was garbled, filled with misspellings, and made no sense at all.

After I had my first migraine with aura experience I went in for a complete check-up and also an examination with an ophthalmologist. If you experience migraine with aura-like symptoms for the first time, I would definitely recommend doing the same thing, just to rule out anything else that might be going on. And although I didn’t call my doctor just to check in after my funky texting episode, I should have, and if it happens again I definitely will.

Have you ever had migraine with aura? If so, have you had aphasia too or another weird and scary symptom? Please share your experiences below.





Add a Comment52 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I started having migraines when I was about 18 years old. They always started with what I can described best as blind spots in my vision. This lasts for a small hour, but is quite scary. When this aura starts, I cannot go outside. I might mis a car, or bump into people. Reading is completely not possible anymore, letters and words are missing, but they don't seem to be missing (ie. I see the word 'migraines' as 'mies', just the first and last letters).
Usually it after this hour I get a bad headache, but this has faded over the years. I am 47 now and hardly get bad headaches anymore. Still not 100% sure what triggers the migraines/aura's. Usually they happen in the mornings though. Stopping drinking caffeine helped reduce the migraines a lot. Dairy seems to be a trigger, alcohol does not help either. Sugar on an empty stomach also seems a trigger. After 30 years of migraine, it is still a puzzle.

This morning I had an aura at work, after sitting it out for about an hour or so, I though I could continue working. My vision was good again, and had a mild headache. But I discovered that I could not read English anymore, I spend a good 5 minutes on a sentence but could not figure out what the words said. I could read them (like I normally do), but they did not register and I had no idea how to pronounce them. I can imagine that this may scare people when they first get it.

Worst experience was when I was about 25, I got a migraine at work and went home by train. People in the train asked me how I was doing, my face was hanging and I could not talk anymore.
They put me in a taxi to the hospital on the next stop. Even though I knew it was a migraine, I could not explain myself. As soon as I arrived in the A&E I could speak again and I just had a bad headache.

September 7, 2020 - 4:50am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anon

Thank you for telling us your story - your symptoms were almost stroke-like. I'm glad things have improved for you.



September 7, 2020 - 9:37am
EmpowHER Guest

I just had one today for the first time and it was the scariest experience I've ever had. I was talking with a friend then I began to see a dot in my vision. Then I got a sharp headache and shortly afterwards noticed that i couldn't read text from a video. Then I tried writing to my friend, but this became very hard and i forgot where each letter is on the keyboard. THen, I started trying to talk to my family about it, but I coukdnt. I literally forgot how to say words and spell them. I forgot the letters i n the alphabet and couldn't tell anyone what was happening. Honestly the scariest experience of my life

May 15, 2020 - 2:33pm
EmpowHER Guest

Have had ocular migraines now and again but recently had what you have referred to. Thought I was getting a migraine so closed my eyes and took deep breaths for several minutes. When I thought it passed I started to read some mail and found it was difficult and some words I couldn’t read at all even though I knew what the word meant. For example the word Nissan. I couldn’t begin to read the word but my mind new I had one in the garage. Then I realized I couldn’t remember the names of my dogs, friends and places. I was pretty panicked but the whole situation probably lasted 30 minutes at most. Scary stuff.

January 29, 2019 - 11:36am
EmpowHER Guest

I started getting the migraine aura after taking Ribavirin for a hepatitis C treatment. Everytime I would be somewhere that the light was pulsating it would trigger them. Walking past a chain link fence would do it. It would start from a blind spot in my vision from a mild stroke that left a small blind spot in my vision. I am now taking verapamil 40 mg three times a day and that seems to be reducing it from everyday to maybe once a week and very mild.

November 18, 2018 - 3:15pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for this update Anon - you'll help a lot of our readers who are can benefit from your experience. 



November 19, 2018 - 1:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks - this explains exactly what I 'suffer'.
I experience an aura - difficult to define but it's always the same. I have time to get upstairs and lie on the bed.
I can't remember how to turn off my tablet for instance and I can't speak even though I know exactly what I want to say.
I don't experience a headache and just lie down because of the dizziness. Often it clears in five minutes or so.
I was diagnosed with 'petit mal epilepsy' but have never experienced the 'standard' symptoms - this seems much more likely.
I used to have very bad migraines before I took the anti-epilepsy medicine. My attempts to save money by cutting down the dosage are rewarded by these 'episodes'.
I would assume that epilepsy (a stigma) and migraine ('better' than just a headache) are closely related.

April 30, 2018 - 8:32pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had this happen to me 13 years ago when I was 15years old. I had a sudden headache, light sensitivity, tingling in my arm and I could not speak. Anything that I said was gibberish. I was so freaked out and was trying to read words on signs and it came out as slurred unintelligible sounds. I tried to pray and I could not even form words in my head to pray. Then all of a sudden normal function returned and I felt normal. Since then I've always thought I had experienced a TIA, however I really think it was migraine with aura.

April 21, 2017 - 9:12pm
EmpowHER Guest

My first migraine episode happened soon after I had my first child. I would get them twice a month and they would be so dibilitating. They would start out with blinding spots in my vision and then the nausea and pain hit. Over the years they have gotten worse. Recently I started having one before work. Luckilya friend of mine drove me because I was having a hard time seeing. What was really scary was he was talking to me but I was not proccessing anything. I was too busy trying to remember all my customers names which was not happening. Then my fingers and face got all tingly. I couldnt feel my arm and tongue for a good five minutes. It was absolutely terrifying. This has been happening at least once a month for the past 4 years. My doctor ended putting me on blood pressure medication which has worked like a dream.

December 21, 2016 - 1:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am not a medical professional so if you have any stroke like symptoms you should still see a doctor. However I have done some research since I had a very alarming migraine yesterday and want share what I found. Migraines that seem to mimic a stroke are a specific type called a "hemiplegic"migraine. While anyone can have a migraine, hemiplegic migraines are a result of a genetic disorder from a gene mutation. They're apparently very rare compared to the regular kind. Normal migraines are often comprised of an aura and a headache with light sensitivity. I think the author was confused about what an aura actually is. It's not a state of confusion or aphasia, it's the term for the silver, shiny looking arc (or other hallucination) that shoes up in your vision and sometimes makes it hard to see. However aphasia, often accompanied by confusion and/or slurred speech is more indicative of a hemiplegic migraine. If you have one of those, you may also experience paralysis or numbness on the left side of your body. If this happens don't freak out! If it is a migraine it will pass and the paralysis will only be temporary. If you don't know if you have this condition, then you should go to the ER asap incase you are actually having a stroke.

This happened to me yesterday while I was home alone cooking breakfast. I knew I had a history of ocular migraines usually accompanied by nausea, an aura, visual distortions, blind spots and mild aphasia but I wasn't prepared for the severity of my episode yesterday. As soon as I began to notice these visual symptoms, I immediately took some aspirin which usually seems to stop most of the pain before it starts. I prepared to lay down and ride it out like usual but I was suddenly hit by a severe wave of confusion. I couldn't make sense of words or numbers and felt disassociated from my own limbs. At the time I was cooking. I began to panic and tried to turn off the stove which took probably 5 minutes because I couldn't understand the dial. I was so confused and disoriented I started to have an anxiety attack. I felt like I couldn't discern between what was real and what was my brain playing bricks on me. The only thing I could begin to relate it to is having a bad psychedelic trip. I didn't know if I was having a stroke or some sort of psychotic break. All I could do was sit and try over and over again to dial my mother since I knew she had debilitating migraines as well. In my irrational stupor I decided it would be a good idea to see if this had ever happened to her before calling 911. It took many tries to actually type anything into my phone but she wasn't answering anyway. I tried to calm myself down by playing som relaxing music and I found that I was unable to sing along or even hum correctly. I was slurring my singing. After about 30 minutes of this horrid confusion I began to see the silver aura, my head began to hurt and my left hand went numb. The numbness began to slowly travel up my arm. This made me feel better and worse. The aura was relieving because I knew I was having a migraine, not something new. The numbness made me think there must REALLY be something wrong with my brain. By this time, my roommate had come home and was offering to take me to the ER. I kept saying I should wait until I heard from my mom. It seemed unlikely that I, an extremely active and nutritionally conscious 20 year old, would be having a stroke. The confusion and aphasia was going away and I was left with a completely numb hand and a mild headache. So I immediately began looking these things up and found out about hemiplegic migraine. I saw that I fit just about every symptom and read that it's common to have a parent with it as well. It all made sense. I suddenly remembered 2 separate times as a kid when my mom had such a horribly disorienting and confusing migraine we had to pull over on the side of the road and wait it out. She would lose her vision, see the silver aura and be almost unable to communicate. Years later, she had at least 2 episodes where she thought she was having a stroke and told my stepfather and I to keep an eye on her. She felt disassociated from her body parts and was having an extremely hard time understanding us. I don't remember personally but she thought she was slurring her speech. Before we could take her to the hospital it passed and she was left with a headache.

I have yet to have this confirmed by a doctor but after explaining this to my mom, we both have plans to see a neurologist.

If this has ever happened to you I want you to know, hemiplegic migraines are benign but terrifying. They're also unpredictable. They can come at any time and vary in severity each time. I believe it's rare but some episodes can be so severe the person can pass out or even go into a coma. If you think you may have this, I encourage you to speak to your doctor about doing tests. There's a medication you can take to mitigate the effects (like paralysis or losing conscious) which could become dangerous if you're alone.

Again, I took a risk not assuming the worst. I should have gone to the ER to rule out stroke right away. Luckily I was fine. But others shouldn't take that risk.

However I hope this helps someone out or gives them something to ask their doctor about. Or at least helps them relax during an episode. I know it would have helped me yesterday to know about this. Feeling like you're going insane with no one around to help is a terrifying feeling.

June 9, 2016 - 10:41pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



Get Email Updates

Migraine Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!