Today I wish to relate to you, our dedicated readers, one of those “Aha” moments when one finally either figures something out or discovers the solution to a problem that has been bubbling around in one’s mind for some time. In this case, I have finally and quite by chance stumbled upon a diagnosis to a fairly benign but sorta bizarre “medical condition” that I have experienced. (“Oh great, he’s going to tell us about a rash on his butt.”) No, gentle reader, I am not about to describe anything icky, squidgy, or downright embarassing. Like I said, benign but weird.
Anyway, the symptoms I have presented with: Probably about half a dozen times over the last 10-12 years or so, I’ve had what I call “spells”. I’ll be sitting around doing whatever I am doing when I’ll notice a small blind spot in one eye. Not like a black spot with no vision, just a small area where I can’t really focus, right about in the center of my field of vision. Then it would slowly start to enlarge and elongate into a sort of curved wavy line and start to migrate out toward the side until a large irregular semi-circle of wavy lines was apparent in one side, and the wavy lines would be constantly moving outwards. It’s hard to describe. Accompanying this, I would also feel a wee bit. . .dizzy? Lightheaded? A bit numb? Something like that. And some loss of peripheral vision. It would only last about 20 minutes and then the symptoms would slowly dissipate and, boom, back to normal. Nothing disabling, but for that time I would find it difficult to concentrate so I’d mostly just sit down until it passed. In a way, it’s almost enjoyably freaky.
Being that it didn’t seem serious, I never thought it necessary to see a
quack medical professional about it, but I’ve always wondered what the deal was. And then just yesterday I was reading through the Dec. 2008 issue of Scientific American and came upon a letter-to-the-editor (see the “Aura of Mystery” one on that page). I started reading it with some bit of interested detachment (“Yeah, whoopee, it’s about headaches”) until I turned the page and saw a graphic which is not, unfortunately, on that Web version. This is close to what it looked like though:
That’s what I would “see”! Not the mountains and trees, of course, but the funny wavy-lined thing. It’s called an aura. I see auras! As the linked article says:
[A]ura symptoms may occur without headache. With increasing age, it is not uncommon to retain the aura but lose the headache or to develop aura symptoms without a prior history of headache. This phenomenon has been referred to as “late-life migraine accompaniments” or “migraine equivalents.” The International Headache Society recognizes it as “typical aura without headache” and notes that some individuals, primarily men, only ever experience the aura.
I’ve never had serious headaches, let alone migraines, so I guess I am one of those 1-2% who get these things without migraines. Interesting that it is more common in migraine sufferers, which suggests some sort of linking mechanism; they mention inheritance, but no one in my family ever suffered migraines and no one ever mentioned seeing funny wany-lined thingies. Never having did any research into migraines I don’t know what the heritability is like. Still, it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon and it’s nice to have a name associated with it.
I could have done without the part about structural brain lesions though. . . .