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What is a Silent Migraine?

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Feb 28, 2014 7:00:00 AM
Migraine episodes can potentially develop over four distinct stages, and only one of these stages actually features a headache. Not all migraine patients will experience all stages. When the first two stages, the prodrome and aura, are experienced independently from the headache stage, the migraine is described as acephalgic or silent.

Silent migraine episodes do not include the chephalalgia stage. These episodes are sometimes called migraine equivalents and can happen to patients who suffer from either episodic or chronic migraines. Silent migraine attacks may present prominent prodrome or aura stages without advancing to the headache.

People who suffered from migraines with aura at a young age may grow out of the headache phase and exclusively get silent migraines. Those who never experience auras are not very likely to suffer from silent migraines.

Symptoms and Intensity

Although silent migraines do not advance into the headache stage, their symptoms can be nonetheless uncomfortable and intense. Many of the symptoms correspond to a migraine aura:
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Vertigo
  • Seeing flashing lights, spots or halos
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

Some silent migraine patients will also go through a prodrome stage of anxiety, yawning without feeling sleepy, fatigue, and irritation.

Ruling Out Other Conditions

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of silent migraines is that they tend to resemble other conditions. Some patients who have suffered rare migraines when they were younger may later experience silent migraines that can be confused with more serious conditions. For example, a patient with familial hemiplegic migraine syndrome might go through the aura stage thinking that he or she is suffering a transient ischemic attack, a cerebrovascular accident or a stroke. Patients who once suffered from ophthalmic migraines may feel as if they are suffering from an aneurysm.

Silent migraines patients may be overcome with anxiety as prodrome and aura episodes set in, particularly if they have experienced terrible headaches in the past. In the case of hemiplegic and ophthalmic silent migraines, the intensity of the symptoms could correspond to strokes or aneurysms; for this reason, patients are often treated in an emergency room where medical personnel must conduct assessments to rule out other issues that can have a greater potential of permanent injury.

Treating Silent Migraines

Many of the treatment plans followed by patients who suffer from migraines with auras can be applied in silent migraine cases. Preventive pharmaceutical treatments are often beneficial in this regard. Silent migraines can also be treated symptomatically; for example, patients who frequently feel nausea can be prescribed a treatment of antiemetic medications.

Even some over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be used for relief of silent migraine symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are often prescribed to relieve the vascular origin of some of these symptoms.

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Topics: Migraine

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