10 Migraine Terms to Familiarize With

Migraine Terms

By: Dr. Masoud Esfahani

Every individual experiences migraines either slightly or completely differently, often making it challenging to diagnose false versus true migraines. However, it is monumental to know these following common terminologies, as they help explain a lot about migraines. Likewise, it is elemental to know these next words because they help pave an understanding behind why migraines tend to attack the sensory, muscular, and neurological systems which include speech, vision and pain perception.


There are essentially four stages to a migraine that includes an aura, however not all are experienced by migraine sufferers. The first stage is called the prodrome phase, followed by the aura, followed by the actual migraine, followed by the postdrome (“after effect”) phase.

Indeed, there is a distinct reason for differentiating if a person experiences some, versus most, versus all of these stages, because for example, studies show that those who experience auras are more prone to heart attaches and strokes. Moreover, this bit of information is beneficial in prescribing the right treatment plan that works best for each individual.

Symptoms of aura contain, but are not limited to:

  • Speech slurring
  • Ataxia (Muscle weakness)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorientation
  • Partial paralysis
  • Hallucinatory scents (Believing in an odor however no other person smells it)
  • Vertigo
  • Hyperosmia (Hypersensitivity to smells that are actually there)


Though this s a subcategory to persons who sense auras before their migraines, it is important to discuss vertigo, since not everyone knows what it is. It is NOT ringing in the ears. It is actually the sensation of spinning, whether you feel like your body or your head is spinning). It could also be the feeling of lightheadedness. In laymen’s terms, this is what one characterizes as feeling dizzy.


When smells and scents cause migraines, it is described as hyperosmia. This ability to have a heightened sense of smell to otherwise light odors such as chemicals found in lotions, air fresheners, candles, plants, cut grass, and flowers, is a truly bothersome reaction.

Silent migraine

You may guess that a migraine without an aura would be called a silent migraine. Don’t let the name fool you. Those who experience silent migraines may or may not have had an aura preceding their migraine. Migraines that cause every symptom except headaches are silent migraines. For instance, you felt fatigue, strange auras, nausea, and dizziness, however you never got pain in your head.

Basilar-Type Migraine

Where Basilar Migraine gets its name from explains what it is. It is simply the type of neurological sensation a migraine portrays. At the bottom of our brainstem or in either hemisphere of our brain, we could feel migraine headaches. This also could happen with or without an aura, since it is what typically followed the aura or absence of aura.

Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

If a migraine is intermitted from bloodlines, then it is called a familial hemiplegic migraine. Unfortunately also, this type of migraine is closely associated with right or left hemiplegic strokes (right or left brain’s hemisphere). And, as a result, when these types of individuals go through a migraine episode in front of you, you may notice that they look like they’re having a seizure or stroke.


Di- means double, and -lopia refers to the eyes. This is the medical term for double vision. This could happen during the aura, migraine, or both of these phases for suffering individuals. Interestingly enough, of those who experience basilar-type migraines, up to 50% of them suffer diplopia.


This is the strange shifting of lights sensation that hits your field of sight. When you or your eyes are tired, or you feel lightheaded from getting up in the morning from bed too quickly, surely you have experienced this. In cartoons, they depict this as birds chirping and circling in front of your eyes. For a migraine sufferer, this is a usual sad occurence, if their migraines are accompanied by scotoma’s often.

Migraine Trigger

This one is a bit straightforward and bears no explanation really. What is key to know about this one is that, if you notice a pattern in what seems to cause your migraines, try to limit or stop those triggers. For example, if aged cheese sets you into severe migraine headaches, avoid or watch your consumption. Other common migraine triggers many have reported are not limited to this list but include: cured meats, wine, certain scents and candles, humidity, cold air, and different times of the month for child-bearing age women.


Light sensitivity is photophobia. A staggering amount of migraine subjects get photophobia. Bright lights or lots of sunlight exposure triggers and worsens one’s migraines. It may be felt as an eye pain sensation that develops into a full-blown migraine attack. Oddly enough, optical illusions such as intense black and white repetitive patterns lead to photophobia and intensified migraines as well.

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