Everything You Need to Know About Silent Migraine

Medically Reviewed By Susan W. Lee, DO
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Silent migraine occurs when you experience an aura or other migraine symptoms without a headache. This article discusses what silent migraine is, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What is silent migraine?

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Migraine aura without a headache, formerly known as acephalgic migraine and sometimes called silent migraine, occurs when you have an episode of migraine aura without the development of a headache.

Many people are familiar with the phases of migraine. They are:

  • prodrome
  • aura
  • headache
  • postdrome

Silent migraine involves the aura phase and possibly some other migraine symptoms, but it never develops into the headache phase.

An aura is a recurring episode that involves temporary visual, sensory, or speech and language symptoms. Auras typically last around 15–30 minutes. Even without the headache pain, silent migraine can feel debilitating to the person who is experiencing it.

The onset of an aura can seem unsettling, especially if it is your first time experiencing it or if you are engaged in an activity such as driving when it happens.

If you experience migraine with aura, with or without a headache, you are two times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not experience migraine. However, it is important to note that even though the risk doubles in people with migraine auras, the absolute risk of stroke is still rather low.

The risk of stroke with a link to migraine more generally is also low. You are more likely to experience a stroke due to other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking.

Your doctor may recommend that you lower your risk of stroke by making certain lifestyle changes, such as:

  • not smoking
  • adopting a healthy diet
  • getting plenty of exercise
  • losing weight or maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding birth control pills that contain estrogen

Visit our hub to learn more about stroke.

What are the symptoms of silent migraine?

There are many migraine symptoms that are related to silent migraine. Often, silent migraine will have more than one symptom of both the aura phase and the prodrome phase. These symptoms include:

Read about nine things doctors want you to know about migraine here.

What causes silent migraine?

The exact cause of migraine is unknown. However, some professionals believe that it is due to serotonin or hormone levels.

There are certain risk factors that may make you more likely to experience migraine, including:

  • Family history: It is possible that if you have a parent who experiences migraine, you are more likely to experience it yourself.
  • Sex: Females are more likely than males to experience migraine.
  • Age: You can experience your first migraine episode at any age, but most people have their first experience in adolescence. Those who have their first experience later in life are still typically younger than 40 years old.

Migraine is often the result of a trigger of some kind. Common migraine triggers include:

  • hormone changes
  • stress
  • certain foods and beverages
  • medications
  • some illnesses
  • sensory experiences

What are the treatments for silent migraine?

Silent migraine is typically difficult to treat. Most medications for migraine pain take longer to work than the typical aura lasts.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medications or treatments for silent migraine. However, according to the American Migraine Foundation, some small studies have shown some success with the use of magnesium, aspirin, and lamotrigine.

You should always consult your doctor before trying any medications or treatments for your silent migraine.

Even though silent migraine lacks the pain of other types of migraine, some of the same self-care techniques may help. These techniques include:

  • lying down in a darkened room
  • placing a cold compress or cloth on your forehead
  • massaging your scalp and temples

Read about how doctors diagnose and treat migraine here.

Summary

Silent migraine, or migraine aura without a headache, is one type of migraine. It typically involves experiencing the aura phase of migraine without developing the pain.

Even without pain, silent migraine is potentially disabling and can be unsettling.

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Medical Reviewer: Susan W. Lee, DO
Last Review Date: 2022 Apr 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.