Silent Migraine Isn’t So Silent After All

“Shhh… keep it down; I have a silent migraine.” Yes, you read it right; – a silent migraine. What in the world is a silent migraine? 

Have you ever heard someone say they have a migraine but don’t have a headache? What?! Yes, that was my reaction, too! Aren’t you supposed to have head pain when you have a migraine? According to my research, you don’t necessarily have to be. You can have a migraine without a headache. Migraine without pain is another baffling phenomenon that many people are unfamiliar with or do not understand. If you haven’t had chronic migraines and have not experienced the frustration of having all the mysterious symptoms migraines can bring, you would not have heard of silent migraines. 

During one of my neurologist visits, I was reluctant to bring up what I was feeling lately. I did not want him to think I was going crazy. I had all the migraine aura, yet I didn’t feel pain, and I told him this. I waited for him to look at me and say, “That’s impossible!” but instead, he gave me a sympathetic look and said, “You are suffering from acephalgic migraine, sometimes called “silent” migraine.” A what?! I was shocked to hear this – a migraine without a headache! Isn’t migraine always associated with pain? I guess not. I left the clinic knowing that I wasn’t going crazy after all.

I’ve learned from that visit that silent migraines could bring out some, if not all, migraine aura without head pain. Though hard to comprehend, silent migraines fascinated me, so I tried to educate myself. Don’t let the name fool you. Silent migraines can still be enfeebling. Migraine aura such as

  • light sensitivity
  • vision loss
  • seeing zigzags or
  • squiggly lines
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • Abdominal pain (- sometimes called stomach migraine – I think I should write about this, too! My daughter suffered from this.) can still be present without the headache.

As you can see, despite not having any pain, these symptoms are enough to halt anyone’s life. In addition, I was diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines presenting additional symptoms on top of some mentioned above; these symptoms usually mimic stroke-like symptoms, then a massive headache would usually follow. However, there are days when I only experience an aura, but they are enough to bring my whole body down.
Because silent migraine is “silent,” taking the proper medication can be tricky. There were days when I didn’t know what I was feeling; all I knew was that I didn’t feel well and, therefore, didn’t know what medicine to take. Medication for regular migraines usually treats silent migraines, my neurologist told me, but this has been a hit-and-miss for me. It has been challenging for me to catch silent migraines in their early phase. I often wouldn’t realize I was having one until it was too late.
There are many causes for silent migraines, or what most call triggers. Below are common causes for migraines, even silent ones.

  • neck problems (number one for me!)
  • noises (this, too!)
  • bright lights (yep!)
  • fermented foods
  • caffeinated drinks (This is very inconsistent for me)
  • wine (aha!)
  • barometric changes (ugh!)
  • MSG (I think so…)
  • stress (definitely!)
  • hunger (yes!)
  • exercise ( sometimes)
  • pain or other illness
  • odors (yep!)
  • eye strain (phone!)
  • too much sleep (yes!)
  • too little sleep (What?! – shaking my head)
  • hormonal changes (yes! Pregnancy, menstruation, peri-menopause-yikes!)
  • chocolate (Ugh!-my favorite.)

Did I comment on all of them? Oh well! By the way, having a migraine-trigger diary is a great idea.
I try to find ways to avoid all the triggers, but it is not easy. Sometimes, we are not in control of our environment. Sometimes I am very religious at watching my triggers, but at times, I slip, oops! Chocolate!!! Rocky Road ice cream is my one guilty pleasure. I would usually pay the price for my “oops” later (pouting).
If you hear someone say they have a silent migraine, no, they are not crazy! Even though it’s called silent migraine, it doesn’t mean no symptoms are present. Silent migraine manifests in different debilitating and crippling ways. Someone who experiences this mysterious phenomenon needs rest, just like those who have migraines with pain.
If you experience a migraine aura without a headache? There’s a possibility you could be experiencing a silent migraine. Talk to your neurologist and see what treatment is best for you.
Just because one does not feel the pain doesn’t mean they are not struggling. Silent migraine is just as enervating and paralyzing as any migraine, so please be compassionate and understanding.

I guess silent migraine isn’t so silent after all. 


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