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10 Terms Every Migraine Sufferer Should Know

Some headaches can be summed up in just a few words. A migraine, however, can be a lengthy event that causes far more than just head pain. If you have migraines, learning a few new words may help you better understand and describe your symptoms.

Here are the definitions of 10 important migraine terms:

Ataxia. This is the medical term for difficulty using your muscles that leads to lack of coordination. A type of migraine called basilar migraine, which involves the brainstem, may cause ataxia that affects your ability to walk and talk. In one study that asked people with basilar migraine about their symptoms, 5% had ataxia.

Aura. In about 20% to 25% of people with migraines, an aura precedes the headache or occurs alongside it. A typical aura has symptoms that may be:

  • visual
  • sensory
  • involve speech

The symptoms develop gradually, last no longer than one hour, and are completely reversible.

The aura may include:

  • Vision changes such as flickering lights, spots or lines, loss of vision
  • Numbness, tingling, or pins-and-needles feeling in the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words

Some people may have only one of these symptoms of an aura. Other people may experience one after another during a migraine attack.

Diplopia: If you've ever had double vision -- which means that you see two of everything -- you've had diplopia. This is one of the symptoms that experts use to diagnose basilar migraine. In the study that looked into the symptoms of people with basilar migraine, 45% had diplopia.

Hyperosmia: In medical terms, "hyper" means excessive. "Osmia" refers to smells. Thus, hyperosmia means that you're unusually sensitive to odors.

Many people with migraines have a variety of unpleasant symptoms during the attack aside from the headache. These symptoms can include hyperosmia, as well as sensitivity to light and sound.

Familial hemiplegic migraine. This is a rare type of migraine with an aura that includes muscle weakness. During the attack, people with this form of migraine have trouble moving their body. The severity can range from muscle weakness to a total inability to move. The muscle weakness is fully reversible.

This type of migraine is often mistaken for epilepsy. People may feel confused during these attacks.

The aura in this migraine typically involves problems with:

  • vision
  • language

The episodes of muscle weakness and movement abnormalities can last for days. In some cases, people can become comatose during the migraine.

Familial hemiplegic migraine can run in families. In patients with familial hemiplegic migraine, at least one first- or second-degree relative may have this type of migraine. Experts have linked the disorder to a number of genetic mutations.

Photopsia/fortification spectra. The vision changes that can occur during an aura may involve a complex array of lights and images that appear before your eyes. Photopsia is the medical term for flashes of light.

WebMD Medical Reference

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