It can be hard to tell the difference between an aura, which is a visual disturbance common with migraines, and a form of stroke known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
Too often are early stroke symptoms misinterpreted as the signs of a pending migraine – a mistake that can be very harmful, according to Dr Hartmut Göbel, who practises at a pain hospital in the German city of Kiel.
Misdiagnosing a TIA as a migraine with aura can lead to more serious damage from an avoidable stroke, which is why it helps to be able to tell the difference.
The problem is that “with only one episode, it is difficult to know,” says Dr Göbel, and only a doctor will be able to make a diagnosis.
For a reliable diagnosis, the patient must have at least two episodes that meet certain specific criteria.
Whether you suspect you are having a stroke or unusual aura-like symptoms, call the emergency services right away, because the time it takes to get treatment can determine the extent of the harm you suffer via damage to your brain cells.
If you are suffering from at least two of the following points, it is likely you are having a stroke:
- All of the symptoms occur within less than a minute with maximum intensity, rather than spreading gradually.
- Several symptoms occur at the same time.
- All symptoms are deficits such as the loss of vision, numbness or paralysis.
There are no “positive” symptoms such as zigzag lines, tingling or colour vision.
- The symptoms are not accompanied by a headache, nor are they followed within an hour by a headache.
These points are more indicative of a migraine aura:
- The symptoms occur slowly and develop progressively over 15 to 30 minutes.
- If there are several symptoms, they occur successively, meaning one after the other.
- There are “positive” symptoms such as seeing zigzag lines, a tingling sensation or colours in the vision.
- After one hour at the latest, these symptoms are followed by a headache, i.e. the migraine. – dpa