Silent migraine: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Updated on April 23rd, 2020
silent migraine

Migraine is one of the most troubling and throbbing headaches that affect one side of the head. According to a study, it affects nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households, and around 1*% of total Americans are known to suffer from migraines (1) at some stage during their life. It is commonly seen in ages between 18 to 44. There are various types of migraines differentiated on the way they exhibit the symptoms. Silent migraine is one of the migraines that does not have any pain.

Types of Migraines

Below is a brief on different types of migraines differentiated based on the way they impact the person.

An aura is a sign that may come before or during the attack of migraine. These signs can be in the form of visual, sensory, or motor.

1. Migraine with Aura:

Sensory and visual disruptions associated with seeing black dots, tingling numbness (on one side of the body), and problem speaking. These symptoms or auras can affect before or during the headache and last for around 10 to 30 minutes.

2. Migraine without Aura:

Pulsing pain on one side of the head, phonophobia, and photophobia. It can become worse during physical activity and is also associated with symptoms of general migraine and can cause nausea and vomitings.

3. Silent Migraine:

Silent migraine or Acephalgic migraine as the person may experience visual disturbances, nausea, and other common migraine symptoms. But, the person does not have any head pain.

4. Hemiplegic Migraine:

The person may feel it like a stroke as it causes profound weakness on one side of the body with pinning or needling sensation or even loss of sensation son one side of the body. It can last anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days.

5. Retinal Migraine:

It may cause temporary loss of vision in one eye and is common in women during childbearing years. The effect may last from anywhere between a few minutes to months, and proper care and treatment can reverse the condition.

6. Chronic Migraine:

chronic migraine

It is a headache where the person may suffer from more than 15 days per month for over three months with symptoms of the common migraine. Headache and other associated signs may vary during the period.

7. Ice Pick Headaches:

These are short that last for around 15 to 30 seconds with an intense, sudden, and sharp pain in the head region.

8. Cluster Headaches:

It is associated with burning pain above the eyes, temple region, and even in the back of the head. Runny nose and red or swollen eyes with irritating headaches.

What is a Silent Migraine?

Any migraine attack happens in four phases, namely prodrome, aura, headache attack, and postdrome. Silent migraines may have each of these symptoms but without headache.

Sensitivity to light, changes in vision, nausea, dizziness, and some other neurological changes are the common symptoms associated with silent migraines. Changes in mood and fatigue are also seen during the attack of silent migraine. People suffering from silent migraines may also have other types of migraines.

Symptoms of silent migraine mentioned above can be episodic and transient that may evolve and last for anywhere between 5 to 60 minutes and even longer if not attended or ignored.

The symptoms or conditions of silent migraine can become potentially dangerous over time with life-threatening consequences. It may include stroke, seizures, and transient ischemic attacks. If you experience changes in your vision, neurological disturbances, numbness, or tingling sensations, make sure to consult a doctor without delay.

What Causes Silent Migraines?

In general, the exact cause of silent migraines is not fully explained. However, silent migraines have some triggers that are similar to other migraines.

Skipping meals, disturbed sleep, sensitivity or overexposure to light or noise, stress, caffeine, alcohol, junk food, odors, eye or neck strain, sinus problems, menstrual or hormonal changes, contraceptives, and other medications may be a few things that trigger or may cause silent migraine.

Impact of Migraines - infographic

Diagnosis of Silent Migraines

Diagnosing silent migraines can be tricky because, unlike other migraines, it does not show any symptoms of headache. People may also mistake it for other neurological disorders, or visual impairment and self-diagnosis may never be the solution.

One should make a note of the attacks, duration, and symptoms that are similar to silent migraines. Depending on these and many other factors, the doctor may find out if it is a silent migraine or any other attack.

Doctors may also go through your medical history of yours, your family, physical exams. They may also conduct some tests that may include: a spinal tap, blood tests, CT scans, and MRI scans.

As mentioned above, taking note of some physical or psychological changes may help diagnose silent migraines.

Below listed are a few such symptoms in phases that can be helpful:

Prodrome Symptoms of Silent Migraine

It may start a few days or even a few hours before the attack. The signs usually tend to be mild in this phase. They are:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue and yawning
  • Food cravings
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

Aura Symptoms of Silent Migraine

The aura symptoms of silent migraines are temporary that may last from a few minutes to hours. They are:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Disturbed visual or hearing senses
  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness

Postdrome Symptoms of Silent Migraine

Unlike other migraine attacks, and as mentioned earlier, silent migraines can directly go to the postdrome from aura while skipping the headaches.

The common symptoms in this phase are:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating

Is There a Treatment for Silent Migraines?

Treatment for silent migraine is similar to other typical migraines. Ant-CGRP medications and new devices such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation devices or Cefaly can be beneficial in treating silent migraines.

How To Prevent Silent Migraines?

However, enriching the lifestyle with healthy and conscious habits is also one way to prevent and alleviate the symptoms of silent and even other migraines.

Below listed are a few such tips:

  • Yoga and other exercises to remove fatigue and improve blood circulation.
  • Meditation, adequate sleep, and rest to improve psychological or neurological functions.
  • Avoiding too bright or noisy environments.
  • Avoiding junk or processed foods.
  • Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Identifying and taking note of the triggers.
  • Regulating healthy body weight.
  • Eating at regular times and not skipping the meals.

Alongside medications, alternative medicines or treatments can also help in reducing the effect of migraine.

Alternative Treatments

Some people, especially those with chronic migraine pain, may benefit from alternative therapies.

Alternative therapies for migraines include:

1. Acupuncture:

Acupuncture for depression

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese therapy, where the practitioners use needles to remove any blockages in the body. It improves blood circulation, muscle relaxation and also relieves the stress from the body, which can, in turn, alleviate the symptoms of migraine.

Acupressure is another similar practice which practitioners use

2. Massage Therapy:

It can help in reducing stress and tensions in blood vessels, muscular and nervous systems.

3. Biofeedback:

It is also one of the most helpful techniques. It can be a self-assessment or done by a physician, wherein we can get a great understanding of various physiological functions in the body and then correct them. It can help in improving overall health conditions, which can help in fighting a migraine.

Bottom Line:

Silent migraines are a common thing and one of the most troublesome factors that can disrupt the entire day when it attacks. Sometimes frequent migraine attacks can disturb both physical and psychological health conditions. Early diagnosis and improving lifestyle habits are some of the best ways to both treat and prevent silent migraines.

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