Aphasia Migraine Symptom: Losing The Ability to Speak, Read or Write


Imagine you are a manager interviewing an applicant for a new job. She is an Ivy League graduate ranked at the top of her class and on paper, seems like the perfect fit for your business. Suddenly in the middle of your otherwise normal interview, her speech turns to babbling and she can no longer understand the words you are speaking to her. She continues speaking as normal, but looks at you bewildered when you try to speak to her. You call emergency help believing she is having a stroke, only to find out later that your applicant was suffering a migraine symptom known as transient aphasia.

What is Asphasia?

Aphasia is a loss of the ability to do one or more of the following basic acts:

  • Speak

  • Understand speech

  • Read

  • Write

  • Perform simple math

Aphasia occurring in relation to a migraine is usually transient in nature, meaning the condition is not permanent and does not require therapy to treat it. Though it can be worrisome (especially to other people), it is usually temporary.

Learn more about migraine symptoms in this article: Migriane Symptoms: Tips for heavy computer users

Not everyone who experiences migraines have aphasia. Those who do are typically people who have migraines preceded by aura. Of the more than 30 million people who have migraines in the U.S., only 10 million have migraine with aura. An aura is a disturbance to perception in the moments leading up to a migraine headache. Often, people who have sudden onset of migraine-related aphasia have no warning signs. Instead, the aphasia, itself, is forewarning of an impending migraine.

She continues speaking as normal, but looks at you bewildered when you try to speak to her.

Aphasia can present as a migraine symptom that is either mild or severe. Some migraine patients report simply being at a loss for words prior when experiencing migraine aura aphasia. For others, they suddenly feel very confused – almost as if they have unexpectedly become unaware of their surroundings.

What Happens During Aphasia?

Aphasic migraineurs are people who experience abnormal electrical brain waves that trigger the neurons to fire in an atypical way. This deviance from normal brain wave activity produces confusion and may cause mild hallucination. Scientists refer to the abnormal electrical brain wave as ‘Spreading Cortical Depression’. Victims experience aphasia as a migraine symptom differently depending on which areas of the brain are affected by the Spreading Cortical Depression.

Aphasia is caused when abnormal activity occurs in the areas of the brain responsible for language. There are two of these areas – the Broca’s area and the Wernicke’s area. One, the Broca’s area, manages functional language, such as reading, speaking and writing. The other, the Wernicke’s area, processes understanding of language and concepts.

You may also be interedt in this article: 4 Unusual Migraine Symptoms

Aphasic migraineurs may experience symptoms from one or both areas of the brain. For example, one person may have a migraine with aura that causes an inability to communicate words through speech or writing, but no effect on the ability to understand someone else’s speech or writing. It is also possible to have both function and understanding affected by aphasia. Sometimes, people experiencing transient aphasia related to a migraine will be unaware when symptoms are happening, continuing to speak as if though normal.

Managing Aphasic Migraines

migraine symptom like transient aphasia can significantly impact one’s quality of life, potentially raising alarm to other people who are unaware of the condition. If you suffer from a migraine symptom like aphasia, there are some steps you can take to be proactive about your next attack:

  • Advance communication – you may not be able to communicate when experiencing aphasia, so try to do so now when you understand what you are writing. Carry a card, bracelet or other identifiable object that states your condition, its symptoms, and who should be called if you begin showing signs of aphasia.

  • Educate friends, family, and co-workers about how they can help you in an aphasia attack. For example, they can communicate using gestures, diagrams, drawings, and other non-verbal ways.

Though aphasia is often related to being a migraine symptom, it can also be caused by the use of certain medications. Many medications list aphasia as a potential side effect. If you have aphasia, review your medications, as well as any other changes you may have made that could be affecting your migraine patterns.

Help for Aphasic Migraneurs

If you suffer with migraine symptom related aphasia, you are not alone. There are many people just like you, as well as many doctors and neurologists who can help you manage or overcome aphasia symptoms. If you suddenly begin experiencing aphasia or have noticed any changes to your normal migraine patterns, schedule an appointment with your doctor or neurologist as soon as possible.

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Image Source: miranda.granche

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