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Migraine aura - triggers?



3:08 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I don't suffer from full-blown migraines - no nausea, no crippling headaches - but I'm plagued by so-called migraine aura episodes - bright white geometric shapes which start out very small, in the centre of my field of vision, then grow and expand before eventually disappearing typically some 40 minutes later. Usually the geometric shapes (small white lines, triangles and trapezoid shapes) combine to form a large semi-circle - if you suffer from it too you'll know exactly what I mean.

Anyway, I'm trying to identify what, if anything - is the trigger for these episodes. I keep a migraine diary and I record everything from diet and sleep, through lighting conditions at the time of the event, right through to atmospheric pressure. I'm beginning to think that atmospheric pressure may be implicated because my auras often follow marked changes in the weather, accompanied by a rise in barometric pressure. So, my question is - if you suffer from this phenomenon, have you been able to positively identify a trigger, and if so then what was it for you? Thanks.


3:31 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I know what you mean. To others it may sound like you've been on the mushrooms but the vision is real and not nice if it happens when out, say, driving.

For me the triggers are any three out of the four:

Late nights

If I have a cheese sandwich, some chocolate and a cup of coffee and stay up coding all night the next day I get the swirly vision man!


3:56 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I get them too - never positively identified a trigger but bright flashes of light (reflections, etc.) may have some connection. Mine are not triggered by cheese, caffeine or chocolate and probably not by late nights.

not nice if it happens when out, say, driving.

That's for sure!

(For the rest of you who think all 3 of us are on mushrooms, if you google migraine aura art or scintillating scotoma you wil find pictures of what we're talking about. There used to be a cool animated version, but I can't find it.)

[edited by: MamaDawg at 4:00 pm (utc) on Aug. 24, 2006]


4:16 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

the animation is maybe this one? here [moondragon.org]

nothing at all like "mushrooms" etc ( dont ask how I know ..ah the 60's ) ..

get them too ..with the nausea and spatial disoreintation and a feeling of a wind blowing through the eye / side of skull ..which appears to be affected by the aura ..

bright lights and lack of sleep and shoulder/neck muscle strain/posture ...fires them ..

although I hate the taste of sugar ..sipping a small quantity ( like one glass maximum ) of sugared water or coke etc can make them fade out in 10 minutes ..as can massaging the affected muscles or manipulating the misaligned vertebrae ( even if you do this part yourself..by rotaing your shoulders and "clicking" your neck and shoulder joints it can help )...then again your mileage may vary ;-)

bystanders may be startled by the noises from your re-adjusting your vertebrae ..can be very loud ..;-)

[edited by: Leosghost at 4:19 pm (utc) on Aug. 24, 2006]


4:48 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member digitalghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Triggers for me include:

Lack of sleep (happens frequently)
Long periods of time at the computer or whiteboard (happens frequently)
Driving at night for long periods

When the aura starts, I give myself a shot of Imitrex.


6:03 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I get full blown migraines from changes in weather or when my back is outta whack.

I've also seen the shapes and had no clue what that was! I got them more as a kid. They freaked me out! They usually occurred when it was dark and I was laying down. I never told anyone because I figured they'd think I was nuts. They'd appear to start at my feet, usually as a box on its side, then float towards me, change colors, get really bright, turn into a blob-like thing, and then get too close to see any more. The thing that really freaked me out about them was that I couldn't get rid of it by closing my eyes!


7:29 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I get bright flashes of white light, my eyesight goes for several seconds, worse still leading up them I start seeing things! People and animals you know look at a bag or a table to quickly and I swear I saw a dog in amongst it.

Triggers, strain of work or slowing down then it hits me.

Dreading the coming week as ive been very busy rushing around at work starting to slow down for a week off.

I suspect it genetic as on my mothers side they all suffer from them.


9:04 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Imitrex [drugs.com]
I'll stick with the sugary water ( ick ick ick ) and or the visuals ..no point surviving the sixties and the seventies "fun chemistry" to fall prey to a "side effect" now my system is older and the cardiac muscles no longer think that adrenalin on matchheads is a "neat buzz" ;-)).


11:11 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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and I swear I saw a dog in amongst it

Quite common in Essex :-)

(for those in the US: Essex Girls = Jersey Girls)


11:15 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have sensitive eyes, I get this from lights (even if they are not bright). My eyes are really bad though, if I go outside I have to wear sunglasses most of the time.


11:46 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I occasionally get what you have described!

I get it about once a year and it's usually when I'm tired and not eaten for a while. I used to think that a kick of sugar helped. Like eating chocolate or something.

I never thought to look up on it!

WebmasterWorld finds something else I didn't know!

Automan Empire

4:43 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor.

Cheese, Chocolate

If these are definate triggers, look for the list of foods to avoid with MAO inhibitors, may provide insight.

but bright flashes of light

Flashing lights at certain frequencies can entrain the brainwaves to the same frequency. Some are more sensitive than others. It can be useful for reaching an alpha state of mind; it can also cause susceptible people to have petit or grand mal seizures.

Goes to show that differing syndromes fall under the banner of "migrane."

One thing you might look into is Feverfew.

dont ask how I know ..ah the 60's

Youthful indescretions led me to study neurology and chemistry... never mind the ethics of experimenting on oneself, here again the knowlege gained may help humanity in a minor way after all.


8:59 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member


Lots of good studies on that herb and migraines - for example see the bibliography of this article [search.lef.org]. For best results, I suggest spending some extra money to get a standardized version with a guaranteed level of parthenolide (feverfew's active ingredient). Less expensive versions can be legally called feverfew, but they may only be some dried up plant material with barely a trace residue of anything to help you.


12:01 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the responses, everybody, they've made interesting reading. I had an aura episode earlier this evening, and I had one yesterday just before I started this thread. I had one nine days prior to that, and then fourteen days before that I had two on the same day - it's becoming a routine and tiresome part of my daily life. I only had my first one a few years ago, but their frequency is increasing. Back in March I had my first cluster - four of them over a five day period. That hadn't happened before nor since, but as of today I've had two in two days so this could yet turn out to be another cluster.

Reading the accounts from Leosghost and AWildman, I'm thankful that I only get the visual disturbance - it's inconvenient and somewhat disorientating but it's short-lived (typically forty minutes) and completely painless so I know I could be in a much worse position.

I read up on Imitrex but I didn't like the immediate references to 'serious side effects on the heart', so I didn't pursue that one too far. Feverfew sounds vaguely familiar but I know I haven't read anything about it in relation to migraine and migraine auras so I'll be following up on that later. I'm convinced that my trigger is not dietary, and I can't even remember the last time I ate cheese or chocolate, but nonetheless I'll read up on MAO inhibitors just in case there is anything of significance to me. It's interesting that two responses have mentioned shoulder and back problems being implicated - I haven't read anything along those lines before. Interesting also that two responses have said that increased sugar intake at the onset of an episode is helpful - that's another one I haven't heard before.

As I said, there have been some very interesting responses, so thanks again.


12:18 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I used to get the aura episodes quite a lot although they very seldom became full blown migraines. I made one change in my daily routine that I believe stopped them. Moved from a crt eye burning monitor to an LCD screen.

The aura episodes can be terrifying before you find out what they are. The first time I got one I though my eyes where failing. I was sitting on the sofa and I couch see red dots. They where there but I couldn't focus on them. It really started to get annoying.. I switched of the light and they where still there. As you said they typically last for abut 40 mins but there is nothing I ever found to make them stop. It's quite scary.

Side note:
If you experience this don't just tell yourself it's noting. See your doc. It could be anything from eye damage to high blood pressure. It was my doc who told me what is was after I described my symptoms and he done an examination.



1:10 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've had full blown migraines for over 35 years. Aura, nausea, sometimes tingling or numbness on one side of body, pain, etc. (scary stuff)

Could never find one cause, but atmospheric pressure change, allergies, lack of sleep, flourescent lighting can trigger it for me.

Taking feverfew seems to help, but my headaches have slowly been decreasing as I have gotten older anyway, so hard to tell. Heard taking magnesium can help as well...


2:27 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Many years ago I suffered from migraines to the extreme. Usually took a shot of morphine or demerol at the emergency room to knock it out. The pain was so bad, I would rather go ahead and just die.

After several tests, it was discovered that my migraines originated from food allergies. Most notably food additives such as MSG and sodium nitrate. Alcoholic beverages sometimes made me have migraines if I overdid it.

Migraines can be triggered by a variety of causes...hypertension (high blood pressure) is most common.

Migraines are symptoms of and underlying cause. If you have frequent episodes, I would advise you seek medical attention ASAP.


4:41 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My aura headaches are triggered by bright pinpoint light combined with stress. Try to avoid glare from any source especially combined with exposure to flourescent lighting and monitors.


5:42 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Hey, I had those too. Mine lasted about 5-10 minutes when everything I saw would shimmer. Scary. You figure it has to be something profound, maybe a brain tumor or stroke! I didn't think it was related to vision because it would go away quickly.

My first episode was while driving on a highway. I got so I could tell when one was about to start. Been about 8 years since my last bout.

Never had migraines and rarely have headaches.

Mentioned it to my doctor and expected to be sent off for a week of brain scans. Instead he dismissed it as a minor relative of the migraine, of little medical consequence.

Until now, I assumed the condition was rare. Apparently not.


8:44 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Well, I had another one this evening - that's three episodes over a five day period. Thanks to the level of detail in my diary, I'm fairly certain that no specific food is triggering this, but I'm wondering if my diet in a wider sense could be a factor. I always skip breakfast, so presumably for much of the day my blood-sugar levels must be a long way away from where they should be. I always have skipped breakfast but I'm not quite so young as I used to be so perhaps my system is nowadays less tolerant of this. So I've resolved to force myself to take breakfast each day, at least until such time as I can determine whether it's a factor or not. What fun, eh. I could happily live without this.


10:00 am on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I always skip breakfast

That can be a major cause of migraines. Don't do it! Always eat or drink something. Otherwise your body is running on empty!

I find the following trigger migraines, but only during the day:

* Chocolate - i never touch this during the day time now. Why take the risk? The pain afterwards in my head is too great! (So bad you can't even sleep it off.)
* Bananas - again, no way
* Lack of food - i make myself eat something small every few hours
* Sunlight/Heat

The killer combination for me was the last 2 put together. As soon as I made sure I never starved myself for too long, my migraines disappeared. I cannot stress enough how it's important to eat.

Now for a quick bite...


11:32 am on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow, what you get, Etonian, is exactly what I get, same symptoms but no nausea, no crippling headaches. I do get a dull headache for about 24 hours after 'the lights' but it's no worse than a headache I would get whilst I have a cold.

I've always hesitated to call it a migraine because I've known others who have full-on migraines i.e they must lie down and rest in a darkened room etc. For me it's more of an annoyance, dodgy vision for a period of time followed by an annoying (but not painful) headache.

As for the triggers, I've had many theories on this, the following are the main ones for me


It may be a combination of them as by themselves they don't necessarily trigger the migraine.

The migraine frequency is probably no more than once a month, but I have on occasion had two in one day.

For the record I very rarely (may be once a year) skip breakfast.

I did ask my doctor about the 'lights' once (didn't know it was a migraine at the time) and they suggested I saw my optician. :)




2:50 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

So, I turned over a new leaf and started today with a breakfast. I've been having so many of these aura episodes, and so frequently lately, that I don't think I'll have to wait too long before I know if it makes difference or not. A search for migraine and breakfast turns up the same advice time and again - don't skip breakfast! I wish I'd known that a few years ago when this all started.

My doctor did the same thing, johnblack - he gave me a quick eye examination and then told me to make an appointment with an optician, because he was concerned about the possibility of a detached retina (that was back in March when I'd had four of these auras over a five day period). Arriving at the opticians later that day, I showed him a sketch of what I was seeing, and straight away he told me it was the visual symptom of migraine but without the headaches (he later referred to it as a 'scotoma'). An examination of my eyes then proved them to be perfectly healthy.

Anyway, I'm feeling optimistic about this breakfast thing - it would be good if the cure was indeed as simple as that. I hope so.

And once again, thanks to all for your input - this has been a worthwhile discussion.

[edited by: Etonian at 2:53 pm (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]


3:21 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Magnesium deficiency can be a migraine trigger for many people. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov] Many of the factors that are often listed as migraine triggers are factors that also cause magnesium deficiencies.

[edited by: Jane_Doe at 3:21 pm (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]


4:10 pm on Aug 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jane_doe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Magnesium is also protective for ears and hearing, and noise sensitivity [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]is a common associated condition with migraines.

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