What is a Silent Migraine and How Can You Recognize and Treat This Headache?

Most people are familiar with the typical migraine headache, particularly if they have suffered through these episodes themselves. A silent migraine is a less common form of the classic headache, absent of the actual head pain, hence the name "silent." Similar to a more defined migraine, the silent migraine aura can be just as disruptive to normal life. However, because the headaches do not come with the more telling signs of a migraine, the sufferer may mistake the symptoms for another health issue.

Here is what you need to know about silent migraines, their primary symptoms, and how to treat them.

Phases of a Silent Migraine

Like a typical migraine, the silent version also goes through four distinct phases.

  • Prodrome - The first phase of a silent migraine is the prodrome phase, signaling that the migraine is coming. This phase can start up to days prior to the attack phase. The most commonly reported symptoms during the prodrome phase include irritability, fatigue and frequent yawning, and an increase in thirst levels.

  • Aura - Lasting about an hour, this aura phase is distinguished by symptoms such as visual disturbances, problems hearing and speaking, and other temporary neurological symptoms. Frequent sufferers of migraines are generally able to recognize this as precursor to the pain.

  • Attack: The attack phase is typically considered to be the most painful stage of a migraine. During this part of the process, the sufferer sees a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. During a general migraine, this is the phase in which the throbbing head pain occurs. While the sufferer may not notice any acute head pain with a silent migraine, they are still vulnerable to going through the other associated symptoms.

  • Postdrome - Also known as the "migraine hangover," this is the last phase after the bulk of the pain has passed. However, the suffer may still complain of severe fatigue, body aches, and problems concentrating.


Risk Factors of a Silent Migraine

There are a number of different risk factors that correlate to migraines. Because migraines are hereditary, many sufferers have predisposed genetic factors. There are also some environmental factors that have been shown to increase the risk of developing this health issue.

Individuals who have a history of migraines are more likely to see them again in the future. Those who have a history of typical migraines are also at a higher risk of silent migraines.

Lastly, sex and hormonal changes contribute to the risk of migraines. For example, women are up to three times more likely than men to experience these debilitating headaches. Some women have reported a higher incidence of migraines during their menstrual cycles, proving a link to hormonal changes in the body.

Triggers of a Silent Migraine

Silent migraines can be triggered by a bevy of factors. Some of the most common contributing factors include the presence of bright and flashing lights or loud noises. Dehydration is also a known cause of migraines. In addition to the aforementioned hormonal changes, pregnancy also makes these migraines more prevalent.

There are a few medications that have been linked to a higher incidence of migraines, including oral contraceptives due to the hormonal changes that they create. Too much strain to the eyes and necks can cause migraines to flare up. Other miscellaneous culprits include stress, changes to the barometric pressure outside, and sinus problems. Keeping a journal can help you to identify what your personal triggers may be so that you can be proactive about minimizing these issues.

How to Treat a Silent Migraine

It can be difficult to treat an acute silent migraine due to the unpredictably of the symptoms. A better approach is to treat the condition with preventative therapies. Good choices include antidepressants known for their ability to regulate particular brain chemicals. Beta blockers originally used in the treatment of high blood pressure have also shown promise in the treatment of silent migraines. Additionally, some silent migraine sufferers report success by taking calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors.

Understanding how to recognize the symptoms of a silent migraine will empower you to make treatment decisions so that you can control the issue.

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