What is a Silent Migraine?

Christina Edwards

A migraine is a disorder that usually involves a severe headache. A silent migraine is an unusual type of migraine since it does not include a headache. Symptoms of a silent migraine typically include any or all of the symptoms associated with a regular migraine, but the major difference is that a silent migraine is not accompanied by any pain. This type of migraine is also known as a migraine aura without headache, a migraine equivalent, or an acephalgic migraine.

Extreme fatigue often accompanies a silent migraine.
Extreme fatigue often accompanies a silent migraine.

Although migraines can be quite unpredictable, there are a few symptoms that may be typical of this condition, and silent migraines are no different. Migraines usually come in four different phases: prodrome, aura, pain, and resolution. A silent migraine may have many symptoms of a typical migraine, including prodrome, aura, and postdrome symptoms, but there is no pain.

A silent migraine is also known as a migraine aura without headache.
A silent migraine is also known as a migraine aura without headache.

The prodrome phase most often occurs at the beginning of a migraine. This phase is often considered to be a warning before a migraine. It can be accompanied by changes in a person's mental state, such as confusion or irritability, as well as physical symptoms. The physical symptoms can include extreme thirst, loss of appetite, chills, or fatigue. Around a quarter of all migraine sufferers experience at least some type of prodrome symptoms.

Confusion can accompany a migraine.
Confusion can accompany a migraine.

Migraine aura is a term used to describe a number of different sensory symptoms that go along with migraines. Speech difficulty, numbness, auditory hallucinations, and odd tastes or smells may all be part of this phase. Aura, however, is most known for its visual symptoms. Blurred vision, squiggly lines, flashing lights, tunnel vision, and seeing spots are all common symptoms of the aura phase of a migraine. A silent migraine usually consists of some sort of aura symptoms, especially the visual disturbances.

Pain is the most known symptom of a migraine. This pain can be very severe at times and last anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days. It is often located behind the eye or at one side of the head. The pain can sometimes be accompanied by nausea or vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. This is where a silent migraine differs from a typical migraine. It is estimated that about twenty percent of migraine sufferers do not experience this pain.

The postdrome phase, or post headache phase, occurs after any pain of a migraine has subsided. These symptoms can include extreme fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating, or depression. It may take up to a few hours to an entire day to recover from a migraine.

Migraine pain can last anywhere from a couple hours to a few days.
Migraine pain can last anywhere from a couple hours to a few days.

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Discussion Comments


My friend takes calcium channel blockers for silent migraine relief. Her doctor prescribed the pills, which are also used to regulate blood pressure.

She doesn't take over-the-counter migraine medication, because it usually focuses on relieving pain. She doesn't have pain, but she does have vision problems and a generally ill mood. She sometimes feels confused, and it's hard for her to formulate her thoughts.


@wavy58 – I've had those same kind of silent migraine headaches! I'm glad that my dad had experienced them previously, because otherwise, I would have thought I was going blind!

The first time I got one, I was removing my nail polish. I guess the strong fumes got to my head, because suddenly, I saw spots everywhere, and a large portion of my visual field was gone.

My dad's doctor had told him that these are just migraines without the pain. I was so glad that I knew what was happening to me, because even with that knowledge, it was scary, so I can't imagine how I would have reacted if I didn't know what was happening.


@Oceana – I've heard that it can. Cheese is also a big trigger.

I tend to get silent migraines at random times, though, and it's usually not right after I've eaten anything. I get them while I'm working at my computer.

I suddenly lose most of the vision in one eye. I cannot read during this time, because everything is mostly blocked out by purple spots.

It always lasts about twenty-five minutes. I just have to tell my boss what is going on and take a break, because there is no way I can see well enough to type or read.


My mother suffered from migraines for years, but hers were the kind with pain. She had to miss so much work that she eventually just went ahead and retired.

She finally narrowed down her migraine causes to chocolate and red wine. As long as she avoided these, she wouldn't get a migraine.

Are the triggers of silent migraines the same as those for regular migraines? Can chocolate bring on a silent migraine?

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