Migraines can be a very painful condition. For some people, the sharp pain may not subside for hours. However, different people can have different migraine symptoms. Some people can even have migraines with little pain. These are called silent migraines. Even though they don’t cause much, if any, pain, their symptoms can still be debilitating.
The words “painless” and “migraine” may seem like words that don’t belong in the same sentence, but silent migraines are very real.
Some people experience vision and sensory issues before their migraines occur. These symptoms are called an “aura”. Aura symptoms can include blurry vision, light sensitivity, vision loss, seeing zigzags or squiggly lines, numbness, tingling, weakness, confusion, difficulty speaking, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour; sometimes even longer, though this isn’t common with silent migraines.
When I first started experiencing the symptoms of my silent migraines in 2016 I was very worried. I would first experience the “aura”, my eyes would struggle to focus. It would then progress within a few minutes to my eyes feeling like they were flickering uncontrollably.
Then my eyes would roll into the back of my head. Sometimes they roll back for half a second and then it ends, other times they stay back for longer. At first, I thought I was having some form of fit or seizure.
Then once my eyes and vision settle, I end up with a headache that can last anywhere from half an hour to a few hours (it’s normally closer to a few hours), depending on the duration/intensity of my aura symptoms. So while I experience some pain with my migraines, the pain isn’t at a level that one would expect when they’re experiencing the “common” migraine.
I often feel very tired and disorientated after experiencing a migraine, and sometimes it can take hours for my vision to return fully back to normal. Often the rest of my day after a migraine is a right-off.
During my most severe migraines, my eyes have rolled back into my head for at least 10 seconds, during which I was fully aware but couldn’t see or stop what was happening. Once it was over, I would be left with a splitting headache. This, however, has only happened a few times over the last few years. Most of the time it is more uncomfortable than actually painful.
My Migraine Triggers
Over time most people get an idea as to what triggers their migraines. Migraines can be a response to the brain struggling to adjust to sensory stimulation (such as loud noises or bright lights) or changes in body chemistry. They can even be related to food.
There are hundreds of possible migraine triggers, including strong smells, noises, bright lights, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, stress, hunger, exercise, pain, eye strain, neck problems, sinus problems, too much sleep, too little sleep, and menstruation and other hormonal changes. Some medications can also trigger migraines.
My migraines can be triggered by flashing lights, lots of stress, and me neglecting to wear my glasses while reading and writing (I learned that lesson the hard way). During a good week, I may only experience a migraine once a week, which I am very grateful for.
However, during a bad week, for example, a week during which I’m very stressed, I can have them every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As soon as you start experiencing aura symptoms you should consult your doctor. Silent migraines can mimic other serious conditions such as strokes and meningitis, so you shouldn’t self-diagnose a silent migraine in case something more sinister is going on.
At first, I went to see an optometrist because I thought something was wrong with my eyes. Besides my previous vision problems, they didn’t see anything wrong. I then went to see my G.P. about it. After some investigation, he told me I was experiencing silent migraines.
This was a term I had never heard before, so I was quite confused. He recommended I keep a migraine diary and prescribed me some migraine medication.
There isn’t a cure for migraines, but the symptoms can be controlled with medication. Treatment for silent migraines is the same as treatment for “normal” migraines.
Since my migraines aren’t that frequent, I don’t require much treatment besides my everyday pain killers and occasional Rizamelt (prescribed by my doctor) during my bad weeks. However, if your migraines are impacting your everyday life, you should consider seeking treatment.
My main form of “treatment” is doing my best to prevent the migraines from occurring in the first place. Of course, I can’t prevent every single migraine from occurring, but avoiding my triggers as much as possible certainly helps.
In order to prevent migraines, you need to determine your triggers. A great way to do this is by keeping a migraine diary, in which you document each migraine you have, the date, the time, what you were doing before the migraine hit, and what you had consumed before the migraine (including medication).
In time you should be able to determine what acts as a trigger towards your migraines and then avoid it. Some triggers you may not be able to avoid, however, there may be a few that you can.
Due to silent migraines not being accompanied with pain, many people mistake them for symptoms of eyestrain or stress. As a result, the symptoms of silent migraines are often under-reported and under managed.
It is important that you consult your doctor if you are experiencing “aura” like symptoms. That way you can receive a diagnosis and treatment for your symptoms.
About The Author
Amy Clements is a 20-year-old who has lived with chronic pain, the result of Fibromyalgia, since childhood. In her teens she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in her wrist, which was the result of a netball injury. Amy lives in New Zealand and studies Business part-time at University. She enjoys reading novels and writing. She especially enjoys writing about her experience with chronic illness.