News & Research, Symptoms

Cognitive Impairment & Other Strange Migraine Symptoms

Pain is an obvious symptom of migraine, but there’s so much more to migraine than the headache. Even the well-known symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes aura barely scratch the surface.

Right now I’m in the early stages of a migraine. Although I can feel the pain coming on, more frustrating is that I’m having trouble thinking, concentrating and finding words. I’m fatigued and thirsty. The black circles under my eyes have returned. Eating might make me feel better, but I’m nauseated, have no appetite and the smell of food turns my stomach.

My current symptoms are part of the many different migraine symptoms. I now know what to expect, but I was terrified when I first noticed all these strange feelings I had before and during a migraine. Cognitive impairment was by far the scariest (and it still frustrates me to no end).

My mind is so fuzzy that I can’t make sense of the rest of the post. I’ll return to the topic next week. In the meantime, here are some relevant links that I intend to use as support.

50 thoughts on “Cognitive Impairment & Other Strange Migraine Symptoms”

  1. I was so glad to hear that I’m not the only one! I get varying levels of aphasia (difficulties with or loss of speech), and sometimes acalculia (difficulties with or inability to process numbers), but my head feels watery, like I’m viewing and understanding everything as if it is filtered through water or even gelatin. I hear what people are saying, I can read what is in front of me, but for the life of me, I don’t always know truly what it means. I remember having a job interview with a migraine and just hanging on for dear life. Miraculously, they hired me (it was more of a contract from the state was transferring from one company to the next so it was unlikely they weren’t going to hire me), and they approached me later to say that they were having difficulties with my social security number. The first three numbers I had written down were the area code of Cleveland (near where I grew up, but not actually my area code), the last four were my parents home number, and I have no idea where I came up with the two in the middle. It was the acalculia.
    Just now I came across your page because I sat down at the library to prepare for a licensing exam, but fighting a massive migraine and just trying to make it until the Excedrin kicked in. I was wondering if I should have just skipped the library and gone to bed for a couple hours to wait it out because absolutely no learning would go on during the migraine, and I wanted to finally look up if other people had the same problem. I’m sorry everyone else experiences it, but I’m so thankful that it’s not just me. Sometimes I start to worry that it means something (kinda like the time I was referred to a neurologist. When I told her about the last migraine I had where I experienced complete aphasia (absolutely no ability to form words), her jaw dropped and she had a look of extreme concern. Girl needed to work on her game face! Luckily I was so excited that that I got to go get brain scans (huge neurology nerd here), that it didn’t occur to me to be worried for more than that first 45 seconds of her panicked look. No abnormalities, thank goodness. But they also didn’t let me go home with a copy of the CT so that was kind of a bummer.

  2. Hello!!
    There is NO ICD-10 billing code for doctors to bill with those terms so find a new doctor PLEASE!
    Oh am I SO happy I found this website!!
    I was just diagnosed with XXXXXXX read for the answer after months of being MISDIAGNOSED!!
    In 2012 I was diagnosed with migraines. I found myself confused, walking around and could not speak, I had 3-5 episodes, took Topamax and went off after 2 years. I was fine.
    Well, well, well, I had a hysterectomy in Nov. 2017, yes, not toooooooooo long ago.
    I was fine and dandy. Minding my own business without hormones and loving the night sweats, sucking it up and toughing it out.
    I was at work at a meeting in January 2018. I didn’t feel right, I thought I was going to pass out, I sucked it up, continued, someone noticed I was pale, oh well, I kept going. I then said bye to my boss who said I didn’t look well. I then said, I might pass out so I sat. Ate something and drank water, once again sucked it up. Well…I packed up my car for my day and had trouble organizing my things. I sucked it up again and got on the road, called my husband about 2 miles down the road saying something didn’t seem right in my head. He told me to pull over. I did. By that time I could not speak. 911 was called. I was taken to the local hospital………………
    The fun begins. I was a STROKE ALERT but after my tests were normal but I failed the stroke tests, 6 hours later the doctor determined, I was psych and the ER doctor wanted to medicated me with narcotics to put me to sleep it off. Thankfully mu husband demanded a neurologist come in to see me. The neurologist was mine back in 2014 who took over after my original neuro doctor passed.
    My diagnosis was complicated migraines, then possible seizures over the next several months. I left with severe neurological deficits to where I could not even shower myself. I believe I had a stroke. I recovered slowly…I had a 2 week headache with no help. I then started to have more severe neurological episodes including paralysis, episodes that mimicked absence seizures, paralysis for up to 8 hours on one side, aphasia for up to 24 hours, I began speech therapy and my condition would fluctuate day to day, it was totally unstable. My doctor took me serious the first month, he then thought I was psych. I had over 15 videos documented of episodes that the watched. He said he did not know what they were but I had a headache after each episode.
    A lot more happened including an incompetent neuropsych but I finally able to get into UC to see a doctor who specializes in difficult to diagnose neurological conditions.
    He knew what was going on in 5 minutes. He spent 1 1/2 hours with me alone and 30 minutes alone with my husband and watched the videos. He then explained I had a very rare condition.. a rare variation of Hemiplegic Migraine he has seen. He actually had a resident in the room to watch the videos and listen to his explanation because he said it is so rare she will probably never see anyone present this way again especially with video documentation.
    and FIRE YOUR DOCS if they say you have COMPLICATED MIGRAINES!!!
    🙂 I’m a total advocate for myself, my family and my friends…
    I believe YOU HIRE THEM…you can FIRE THEM!!!

  3. Grateful to come across this site today. I just experienced new symptoms during a migraine and thought I may be “loosing my mind”. I have had migraines most of my life , 2 or 3 a year, with auras, numbness, dumbness and pain. Recently I have been experiencing migraines MUCH more frequently, like 2 or 3 per month! And, today I could not tolerate sound! The littlest sound, like the sound of footsteps, a plate in the sink. I started screaming at my children to be quiet, they thought I was crazy! I couldn’t seem to control my reactions to the sound. I also had a very intense sensation of not remembering something very important, this was scary as well in the moment. The pain was particularly intense this time, too. Not since I was a young girl did the headache feel as painful.
    I have been noticing as these migraines are happening more frequently that up to 24 hours beforehand I experience great swings in emotions from almost euphoria to depression…interesting?
    Thank you for being a place to share. I felt community and camaraderie reading these posts. Most especially appreciate those posting during their migraine and struggling to spell words. I totally get it!

  4. I’m 58 and have been dealing with nearly all these crazy symptoms except for headaches for most of my life. It wasn’t until yesterday that my eye specialist told me that those terrifying circling flashing lights that wipe out most my vision were migraine headaches! During my lifetime those have only happened 3 times and I was always too scared to mention it to a doctor.
    All of the other weirdness like losing words, saying the wrong words and having people stare at me like I’m a freak (I’ve learned to ask people what I just said so we both have a good laugh), forgetting how to turn the computer on, not comprehending what I’m reading, can’t remember the first half of my sentence by the time I get to the second half, etc……uh did I just mention forgetting what I’m talking about? Anyway, I’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy and fibromyalgia, neither of which I have ever agreed with. My symptoms when the “seizure” is actually happening are very mild. It’s just a tiny twitch in my chest that’s followed by a vision and an incredibly strong feeling of remembering something. In a few seconds I’m back to normal and then I know to go into panic mode and open up my memory helpers because I know in another few hours to a couple of days I’ll be losing my ability to speak, numbers will become meaningless little symbols, I won’t remember any passwords or PIN numbers, or even if it belongs to a card or my phone. Therefore I never lock my phone, not even a Touch ID-I won’t remember where to touch it anyway. I’ll forget why my password for my bank account won’t open my phone. I stood in the rain for a long time pushing my car door lock fob trying to unlock my house that needs a key, and starting to panic because my front door wouldn’t open.
    I knew that my computer photoshop art teaching days had come to end when I showed up to class one day and had forgotten to bring all the cords to operate the monitor and the next class I forgot my mouse. What was weird about the mouse thing is that I was in full panic mode without being able to move the cursor. But I accidentally touched something and cursor jumped. I had become totally stupid. I was using a laptop, you know….with the handy little track pad? I quit teaching computer classes. That was 4 years ago, and things have gotten much worse.
    In my mind, epilepsy has never made any sense, nor fibromyalgia, but doctors start treating you like a stupid hypochondriac when you keep complaining about strange things. And like someone mentioned here, you can’t remember how to talk to the doctor, even when you’re asked. I’ll try writing it in a letter too and see if that helps.
    I got to thinking about the eye doctor telling me I was having migraines, and decided to ask google if migraines could be pain free and if they could cause memory problems, word spelling, speech, word loss in sentences, concentration, etc for a week or so after each “seizure” as my doc calls it. Wow! Finally! I’m not alone anymore! Looks like I’ve been dealing with migraines all my life.
    Here’s a question that I haven’t seen anyone else mention. During the post migraine has anyone else experienced being terrified of the dark, yet normally not? During that week of recovery, I have to sleep with the lights on; otherwise it’s terrifying to get out of bed just to go to the bathroom.
    In the search to help stop the silent epileptic seizures that I supposedly have, my doctors and I have found that caffeine helps set off the next episode, as does red wine which has the same chemical in it. Caffeine has very, very bad effects on me. But I don’t (praise God), have the horrifying headaches to have to deal with that many of you are tortured with.
    Why won’t doctors listen to us and look for a cure? There simply HAS to be a cause and a cure. There’s nothing more humiliating than to be very intelligent and and very stupid all in the same breath.

  5. Has anyone done something strange with no recollection of having done it? I’m in a migraine cycle, though no severe pain today, but my husband left for an hour and when he returned, couldn’t drive into the garage because there were flower pots carefully placed in his spot in the garage. I did leave the back door open when I went for a walk, but why would someone do this? I have had trans ischemic amnesia, but not for years. Also had some strange “waking dreams” or brain static, but also not for years. Very frightening.

  6. I posted in January…happy to report that symptoms have decreased. Started HRT, bioidentical, and have worked with the doctor to tweak the amounts of each hormone. For me, I was extremely (EXTREMELY) low testosterone as well as low estrogen and progesterone. Been officially in menopause 1 and 1/2 years. So much better now.
    I did learn something that I want to share that is important. It involves eyesight. I learned from my eye docs that migraines can cause vision problems down the road. I wish I knew that a few years ago and I would have been more aggressive in treating my migraines. Lesson is…don’t tough them out or minimally medicate them like I did. Take the meds needed to stop the migraine ASAP Hope this helps someone.

  7. I’m on here now because I’m having trouble with just doing normal stuff. I had a migraine yesterday with a slight headache. It’s nice to see I’m not alone. I got my typical symptoms, zigzag vision, difficult speech, feeling spacey, couldn’t concentrate. Today I woke up feeling dopey and spinny. I feel like I’ve been drugged and can’t focus or concentrate. My head hurt a little on my other side. But it all makes sense when you think about it, an electrical wave has washed over your brain causing all sorts of havoc to it. No wonder you feel brain dead after it. I started getting migraines when I was going through puberty. Now I get less severe ones maybe once a year, and lack of sleep coupled with severe stress is my trigger…I’m just grateful I don’t get the headaches as severely now.

  8. I have been reading these comments over and over, amazed that there are people who won’t think I am exaggerating or lying about these weird symptoms I have been dealing with. Thank you all for sharing your stories. I will not try to give my whole history, but am currently diagnosed with complicated migraine…trying to zone in on the type, but meanwhile my Neuro rescheduled my appt from this week to January (God help me)…General amnesia, mild recurring depression (it only occurs with my migraine spells and I don’t let on how bad it really is), and ADHD which I can no longer take medication for because of the way it interacts with my migraines and causes neurological symptoms like tics and seizures. Every month since March of this year I have had a migraine attack of 5 to 7 starts gradually but I can tell the memory and cognitive issues, including the strange dream states some of you have described, are beginning right away, and peaks after several days with complete loss of balance, confusion, homophobia, and a bout of verbal tics and muscle spasms around the mouth that lasts at least and hour but has lasted for days, and ends with sleep…lots and lots of sleep. My work is deadline driven and intense, and I cannot afford to lose my thinking ability for a week every month, then try to catch up the next week while still getting that week’s work done. I also have the speaking problems, difficulty helping my children with homework and keeping up with the things I need to sign and do for school. My spelling and typing has also been getting worse…I saw several of you mention that…I have started checking documents over several times before sending and slowing down when I type to make sure I spell words correctly and catch all formatting and editing errors…I send it off convinced I got it right this time…and my boss finds obvious mistakes that I can not even believe I didn’t see. This is not the quality of work I am accustomed to producing, and I feel that I am on the verge of losing my job every day. Does anyone else experience the verbal tics and spasms? And does anyone have tips for dealing with the cognitive problems in the workplace?

    1. Jenny, my situation is similar. The only thing I can say is that I try to do something method-based when a migraine has taken away my ability to tell if things are correct clearly. The cognitive issues are detrimental, and you probably experience the same lack of mental stamina as I do, as I know that’s common.

      I’ve worked with my employer as much as possible, and made rules for myself. That is, rather than slip into the desire to check and overcheck everything, I do something and then I check it once and document it and then not again. I will not bend that rule unless I start making a pattern of mistakes.

      I don’t know if you’re like me in that before I had migraines, I made plenty of careless mistakes but embedded in some genuinely creative and complex work. Those careless mistakes didn’t bother me then, I didn’t let them get in the way of trying to do work that was standard plus.

      The other thing I’ve made a rule of (and it can be difficult) is that i will allow myself to have a particular negative thought only one time, and then I will pass it through so that it doesn’t get in the way of others. Does that make sense? If those negative thoughts stay resident, they’ll make the work worse.

      My workplace is deadline based, with fines if deadlines aren’t met, workflow is random (and definitely doesn’t always adhere to the migraine schedule), and our goals have been increased 30% over the last 3 years. It’s not ideal, so maybe we can make a pact that we will do what we can, and if we can’t keep our jobs in time (I almost certainly won’t be able to do mine for another 15-20 years until retirement), then we will pat ourselves on the back for doing our best even if other people around us don’t understand that we are doing just that.

      I used to never celebrate properly completed work, I thought that was for gomers. I do, now. We have to appreciate what we can, as a book of mine says, we should indulge ourselves in enjoying our best effort.

      My eyes tic, by the way, during migraines and for a while after.

      One other thing that I do that helps is try to do something nice for someone once a day, whereas I was 100% concerned about my goals at work before. I’ll bet someone can learn something from you at work each day. My supervisors have recognized that even when I’m too out of it to complete much work myself, I am still a resource for clearer headed junior employees.

  9. Also should have said both my parents suffered from migraine so I really had no chance! I get scared when I google symptoms although I know I shouldn’t!

  10. I have had migraines with aura on and off since I was about 15 and also had what my parents called ‘sick headaches’ too. I am 62 now. Last week I had a crushing migraine without aura (on the day before my birthday too!) and although the terrible pain subsided after a couple of hours, I have been feeling decidedly weird ever since. Spent 2 days in bed, one day lying in the garden, and then have very, very gradually started to get better. My symptoms are feeling shaky, groggy, weird, and panicky. Then I will have a period when I feel better for a while – say 3-4 hours- before another ‘wave’ hits me. No trouble sleeping. I am an anxious person anyway, and my husband thinks I panic myself into feeling worse then I really am. It has been a week since the attack and I am desperate to feel normal again. Has anybody else had this experience? I do not have meds from my GP – should I get some or just deal with it with otc tablets?

    1. Sally, please see your doctor. A sudden change in migraine pattern is unusual and should always be checked out as soon as possible. Your lingering symptoms do not fit a typical pattern for migraine and should be addressed, too. I don’t mean to panic you, but there’s a chance this could be something other than a migraine attack.

      Take care,

  11. I’d never been diagnosed with migraines. But I’ve had bad headaches (often lasting days). Cognitive symptoms, moodiness, fatigue, nausea etc. Since I was about 16. I’m 29 now. I’ve been for CT scans too, nothing found. One thing that worked was when I was taking clonazepam for anxiety. All of a sudden those headaches went away. I don’t take it anymore. Still get the throbbing pain in the side of my head. I’ve tried putting something cold on my head which usually helps with the pain. But I still can’t think straight or can’t think of right words. Sometimes it occurs after exercise or going to the gym. It just sucks.

  12. Also, I think I notice body aches before and during. Not sure if related or coincidental…if anyone can speak to this, I’d appreciate hearing your experience…

  13. Anyone ever experience neck pain? Specifically, early morning onset like 2-5 am and then about 5-6 hours later unilateral head pain? In the interim between the neck pain and headache, I am emotional (usu weepy but sometimes elation) and in general just feel off or poorly. Then as the headache ratchets up, I experience waves of depression and what I call “thought battles”. Very high anxiety too. Also have word recall issues, speech issues, and sound/light sensitivity throughout but not in any predictable order or combination. Mainly, looking for validation that the anxiety and depression is part of the migraine biochemistry. I am seeing a neurologist. EEG normal. Thank you for any comments.

    1. Hi Wendy – I also have migraines and anxiety. I’d have to say that I don’t think the anxiety is really much of anything other than postdrome in migraines, then I am constantly checking and double checking to see if I can tell if something is right or wrong. I had a migraine last week, and I was too anxious to post on any forums because I didn’t know if I’d be able to tell if my speech was correct, or if I might just type a whole bunch of random text.

      Anyway, my neurologist said something quick the last time I went to see her, that she thinks “anxiety and migraines are on the same gene” or something like that.

      When I am postdrome, I also have word recall issues and second guessing (which creates anxiety), it feels like dementia – not that I’d know what dementia feels like, but I’m imagining. We all ought to live in the same neighborhood, at least that way, we’d get to see people like us after they’ve recovered from a migraine episode so that we’d know that we just have to wait it out.

  14. My wife suffers from some type of complex hemiplegic migraines. At 1st they thought she was having a stroke. Then they noticed a tear in her right vetebral artery. She was hospitalized for weeks. She lost all functions on her right side. Could not move her right arm, leg,& could not see out of her right eye. She complained of a constant headache and had previously been complaining about headaches over the years. Over time and therapy she got better with the exception of the migraines. When she has an episode she loses ALL cognitive abilities. Her speech sounds like a baby she can vecome violent and beligirent and often wanders off. Almost every night I stay up with her until the early morning trying to keep her calm so she wont wander away from home during an episode. She doesnt remember who anyone is including herself and she only recognizes me by smell. Its so weird and scary. The onlynthing that returns her to her normal state is lowering her pain levels. So her neuro prescribes her narco. Upon taking itnshe returns to her normal self and doesnt remember anything about the episode. It wasnt until I recorded her and showed her the video that she finally believed me about her behavior. We blneed help and have no idea where to turn. The dr.s have no answers. They have tried the occipital nerve block and they want to try botox injections. Right now zhe has to have round the clock supervision to ensure she doesnt hurt herself or anyone else during the episodes. If anyone has ever heard of thos please email me we are desperate at thumis point for a resolution our whole lives is consumed with this condition. My wife is only 28yrs old. Ron.a.edg@gmail

  15. I had a migraine over other another headache 3 weeks ago, and I can tell that my cognitive skills have not fully come back yet. The migraine left after about 12 hours and a trip to the ER. I haven’t had a migraine in a long time, and I’m wondering how long I’ll have problems typing or talking. Some people can’t tell the difference, but I certainly can!

    This makes me very scared to ever have another migraine again!

  16. Triptans are not intended for Hemiplegic Migraine. You may want to check on that with your Dr.

    My ‘slowness’ has been lasting for 3 weeks or so following an episode. It is very frustrating, but now that I know what it is, at least it doesn’t scare me anymore.

  17. I started with HP migraines when I was about 13, they come in waves, and then I can have a gap for a few years. I take amytriptalline as a preventative but it isn’t 100%.
    I get the visual aura first and I know I have about 20minutes to get home, or to tell someone what is happening. I usually start speaking rubbish, last time I was trying to say “i need to get home” but it kept coming out as “aardvark”, which was helpful. I usually am paralysed down one side, and in my latest one had a new symptom for me of not being able to hear.
    My main worry at the moment is that I am noticing after each migraine the motor/speech/sight things take longer to come back. Does anyone else find this?
    I am 33 and in the UK.

  18. Thanks so much for this site. At 70, looks like this road of foggy headed ocular migraine is beginning. Oh dear. Thanks to all you for laying it out, because it is scarey getting suddenly dumb and tongue-stuck, etc. (Only made about 10 corrections to type this as is.)

  19. I am so thankful to find this site. I had my first hemiplegic migraine at the age of 21 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had blindness, numbness in my arm and face/tongue, and could not speak. That episode lasted only a couple of hours and it was over. I didn’t have another one until 12 years later, which had all of the same auras, but left me with a droopy eye and mouth on one side that did not go away. It also left me with a feeling of just being less smart than before. I had no pain with either of those migraines and all tests were normal. I had another hemiplegic migraine 6 weeks ago and it has not gone away. I had all of the same auras as before, but this time major head pain with it that has not gone away. It is present all the time ranging from a 3 to a 10. I visited Cleveland Clinic and they did some IV infusions of magnesium, which made me feel better generally, but the head pain and cognitive impairments continue. I now am taking up to 1000 mg of magnesium orally daily and Effexor XR to try and break the cycle. I can’t function at work or at home and, although I know that it isn’t going to kill me, it still makes me very anxious. I have always been a very confident, outgoing and outspoken person. Now, I am very quiet and introverted because I am not confident that I will present myself in a positive way if I speak. I hope that I can return to normal soon, but am also trying to accept that this might be my new normal.

    1. Maria, I’m so sorry you’re in such a bad hemiplegic migraine right now. I hope you’ve found relief since you first posted or that you find it soon. Please try to remember that you’re still you underneath the migraines. You may be acting differently because of the current attack, but that isn’t necessarily your future. Most people who develop chronic migraine (and I don’t think you’ve reached that point yet) will revert to episodic migraine again. Most of the people who write about migraine online are those who have had a very difficult time finding treatment — but we’re only a small minority. Take care of yourself. I’m sending you good vibes.


  20. So glad to hear I’m not the only one having cognitive difficulties after a migraine. I have been having migraines since i was 7 years old, I’m now 43. My migraines used to start with flashing lights followed by tunnel vision. I would then get one almighty headache, sometimes the pain made me vommit. Now all of a sudden the migraines have changed. I begin by feeling sick which seems to last around an hour. I get the vision disturbance, but not the flashing lights and zigzag lines. It seems as though im looking through the lenses of someone elses glasses. This will last anything from thirty minutes to an hour. There is no real headache,
    just nausea. This lasts indefinitely and the following day i feel exhausted and spaced out and unable to
    to function. Each time this happens i feel as though ive had a mini stroke. I find it difficult to talk and am
    sure the muscles around my mouth have weakened.
    for a day or two, i don’t like talking to anyone because all my words come out wrong and i cannot think straight. I wont drive afterwards because i do not feel safe, the migraine makes me feel groggy and unable think clearly.
    Has anyone else felt like this❓

    1. Eve, it’s possible to have a migraine without any head pain. Migraine preventives can help avoid those attacks, just as they would migraines with head pain. Acute migraine treatments can also stop the individual attacks (whether they include head pain or not). Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of migraine unrelated to the head pain, so it’s not surprising that you’ve had both. Please talk to your doctor for treatment advice.

      Take care,

  21. I am so happy that I stumbled onto this site! First I will appoligize up front if I type something that does not make sense or is spelled incorrectly! I have been sufferring from migraines for about 15 years now and they are getting worse. I have severe ones 3-4 times a week and some kind of pain in my head on a daily basis. I am best friends with my recliner! I have seen a neurologist for the past 10 years and have what feels like every medication know to mankind. I take Topamax twice I day to try and slow them down and then have a lovely mix of meds to take at onset and an injector pen but there are some that none of the meds even begin to touch. I have seen that several of you have the sensitivity to smells I also have that. I have an extremly high sense of smell – I often ask my husband do you smell that and he looks at me like uh no but believe me there is a smell there in may be from the house next door but I can smell it! And sound I can hear every little sound and they are so loud! I also have problems with temperatures with I haven’t seen anyone else have problems with. Changes in the weather are one of my nightmares and I live in PA so we can be 70 one day and drop to 30 the next and my head goes crazy! I also get the constant stuffy nose which I didn’t see anyone else mention – it is horrible! I am currently undergoing neuropsychological testing because I swear I am losing my mind and believe me like everything else I have no idea where I put it! I have lost so many things in my own house it is like a treasure hunt. I put them away thinking oh this is a great place I will remember that I put it here only to go back to get ia and I have no clue where I put it! Speech is also a very difficult thing! I freeze when people ask me question or I spit out the wrong word or can’t get the word out all or say something stupid and I have an MBA so how stupid do I really look?! The other day someone asked me my zip code and I spit out some random list of numbers that made no sense at all and the cashier looked at me like I had three heads. I wash the same load of clothes over and over again because I forgot I washed them and leave them in the washer only to go to the laundry room and find them sitting in the washer! People will comment on something I am wearing and I leave the conversation not able to remember if I told them Thank You or not! I went to the bank to take money out and the bank teller insisted that I had no money in my account and I knew my husband just got paid so I was so upset and was causing a bit of a scene wanting to know what happened to his pay check – stood there for about five minutes questioning the teller on what the bank did with my husband’s check and our savings before I realized I was at the wrong bank! My daughter is 8 and in the 3rd grade I have had trouble doing simple multiplcation with her, starting story problems, could not name shapes she had on a shape page other than the one that looked like a stop sign. My list could go on and on about the cognative skills that I am losing. I finally wrote my neurologist a letter because in my appointments he would ask how I was doing I would tell him how bad the migraines are how often they happen the fact that my memory is oh and my balance an the fact that I drop things all the time I can be walking and trip over nothing or have to grap on to a railing because I lose my balance going up a flight of stairs or I take a step and it ilike I am doing a little dance where I lift one leg to steady myself. I drop things all the time my hands just open up when I am holding things. I have no chance with zippers, buttons and things that need fine motor skills. Finally after I wrote the letter to my doctor he ordered the neuropsych testing to see how cognative skills are being affected. I can tell him how they are being affected – It is getting very difficult to function!! Some days I feel so tired, others I think am I going crazy is this early onset of dementia – oh I am 41 by the way – there is a history of it in my family so I have been so worried about that, is it early onset Altzhemier’s – how far is this going to go -what about my 8 year old do I need to start planning because I am not going to remember things in a few more years?!?1 It is so frustrating and scary but I am so glad to see that I am not alone – while I am not happy to see that others are going through this either at least I know that this is not happening to just me!

  22. WOW I am so thankful to find this website. I have been suffering from migraines since I have been a teenager. The pain was bad but now the crazy side effects…. My sense of smell has increased. I cant be around perfume at all, I cant be around any pets.. each time I smell just about anything I get a migraine. it starts with a pain in my right cheek after smelling the simplest of things then a full blown migraine. Today I feel like I am totally out of it. I can not think clearly feel like crying and just going out of my mind. I can not remember the simplest of things and my head feels like a total fog. Is there anything anyone can do? I take the triptans but nothing is helping this mental block and fog I have been experiencing. I also notice an increase of “floaters”. This is to much to handle. I have been to dr after dr and nobody can help prevent these. I was given topamax,wellbutrin, zoloft, celexa, cymbalta all at diferent times and combos to help – is there any hope? Even herbal remedies are not helping anymore and my migraines seem to be getting worse. not to mention the Tripans side effects are stroke on top of many more.. can anyone offer any hope or suggestions please.

  23. This is such a relief reading other people’s symptoms.

    I am 36. I used to have hormonal migraines, several times a year.

    Recently, after starting Depo Provera, they have become more frequent, and included cognitive issues. I have almost caused car accidents, gotten lost in my own house, and had short term memory problems (i.e. having a shower, and halfway through I can’t remember what i washed)

    It will start off with light sensitivity, then get worse. Caffeine helps with the pain a little. Nausea is occasional.

    Like others, I feel dazed, tired & groggy afterwards. I no longer drive when I am light sensitive.

    I am going to the Dr this Friday to see what she recommends. I’m going to keep an eye on these comments, just in case anybody finds a breakthrough!

  24. Hello there,

    I am not a migraine sufferer myself, but my roommate is. She doesn’t know all of her triggers, but some include smell, dehydration, and coldness (which leads to tight muscles in her neck). During a migraine, she has no appetite, is light and odor sensitive, heat sensitive, and at times visually impaired. She is only twenty now, and began having severe and frequent episodes when I met her at age 17. Since then she has taken numerous strong medications to help the pain. These include but are not limited too beta blockers and maxalt. I honestly stopped keeping track of everything she had, I just know where she keeps the stuff in case she has a reaction to it. She has success with meds at first, and then they stop being effective and she is prescribed with something newer and stronger. Her latest was some injection which she eventually had to detox from. So with all that background information, here is my question: Can someone have permanent cognitive damage do to migraine + harsh medication? I have a few reasons for asking. The first is that my sister, as someone who is bi-polar, has also been taking strong medications (right now she is on lithium), and there has been a noticeable effect on her cognitive function as well as her personality. Having seen this road traveled before, I believe I am witnessing the same thing in my roommate. Is this possible?

  25. I have had migraines since I was a kid. Pretty straight forward when I was younger. As long as I take a large dose of ibuprofen at the first signs of aura, my headache will be tolerable. As I have gotten older (now 37) I have gotten migraines more often. Some months I may get six, others 3, sometimes none. I can’t figure any rhyme or reason to it. Some times I get a migraine on and off all week–never really surfacing, just back there a little slightly affecting everything, and yes sometimes I feel fried for about 48 hours after a migraine.
    In the last year, my onset symptoms are getting strange. I wanted to ask if anyone else has felt these things when they are getting a migraine: A couple different times, while out in public and getting a migraine, everybody’s face was familiar. Everywhere I turned I looked and thought ‘where do I know her from’, or ‘oh yeah, I know him from somewhere’, but I didn’t know any of them, and my wife didn’t know anyone either!

    Another feeling I get is a thought trying to come to the surface. It’s a feeling like something being on the tip of your tongue but you can’t get it out. It just hovers there and the feeling can drive you crazy!!

    One time, I remembered what I thought were some of my dreams. They were very simple and stupid, but it was like some part of my mind just unlocked, and I could remember. I should of wrote them down, because I can’t now!

    I have a lot more loss of the cognitive before during and after my migraine than when I was young, but the pain is much less now, and often I don’t need ibuprofen, I just ignore the loss of vision, speech, and fried feeling and trudge on.

  26. I have suffered two Ocular migraines without headache. The first was 9 months ago and it was extreme with harsh colored jiggling, slowly spinning like shards of color and a blind spot in the middle. This was in my left eye and lasted 45 minutes. I felt fine afterward but within hours I began to feel weird and groggy. I woke the next day feeling very spacey, disconnected and dopey like I was drugged on something. These symptoms lasted 24 hours a day for nearly 2 weeks then gradually I recovered over the next week.

    A friend who also suffers them suggested I might have an overgrowth of candida and I went on a cleanse, acidophilous capsules, and diet change for candida. I started all this 4 days after the day the aura happened. And I felt even worse for about 2 weeks. I then felt better than I had since I was a teenager and remained feeling great for nearly 9 months.

    About 3 weeks ago I went back on the diet and cleanse because I still had problems with my intestines and thought maybe I didn’t get rid of all the candida if in fact I ever had the problem. About 10 days into the cleanse(20 days ago) I suffered another visual migraine, again with no headache. This episode was much milder, was in the left eye again, and color and size were less pronounced. I remained calm, laid back and just tried to watch a movie as it passed. It only lasted about half as long (20 min.) after which I felt just fine.

    The next day I awoke feeling once again, spacey, tired, mentally drained, like I was drugged or sort of like my brain was mildly damaged. These symptoms have continued for about 12 days now. I have always taken a solid vitamin regimen, work out twice per week doing aroebics, sauna, jacuzzi and steam, and also sometimes Tai-chi and yoga. Over the past 12 days I have tried all of these things and nothing even phases the symptoms.And despite the fact that the aura was much milder than the first episode I feel worse than I did after the first episode. I mean like my brain is damaged. Just feel very very weird all the time.

    Anyone have anything like this? Feeling truly brain burnt for weeks after a visual migraine with or without headache?

  27. I’m a 51 year old female who has had monthly “menstrual” migraines since the onset of my period at age 14. I got used to having 2 or 3 a month, but when I hit my mid-40s I also began to have migraines triggered by specific foods and SMELLS. No visual auras, but any perfume and a migraine hits within seconds.

    It’s like a switch flipped in my brain, and now I smell things so much more keenly than ever in my life. It nearly makes me housebound at times. I have to carry coffee beans (to quickly mask any perfume I encounter) and a carbon filter mask to wear when it gets really bad. I can’t shop in department stores or places like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Elevators are a particular nightmare for me; when a previous or current occupant is wearing perfume, I’m in trouble. There are times when I just want the rest of the world to go away and stop smelling like a mix of 14 different flowers mixed with civet all at once.

    And then the cognitive symptoms — they are so scary. Any idea what it’s like to find yourself standing in a drug store, and you can’t remember why your looking at the products on a shelf? Or to find yourself relating in great detail a wonderful story only to realize you have no idea why you were telling the story? Ever find yourself in the middle of a sentence and see the look of puzzlement cross your listener’s face and then have them tell you that you used the world organic when you meant to say organism and you KNEW you were saying organism?

    And then you sit in the neurologist’s office and they say, “Oh it’s nothing — it’s just the migraine.”

    The preventatives don’t work for me, or the side effects are so debilitating that I can’t take them. The sumatriptans work but are so harsh but rebound for me if I use more than a couple a month. The narcotics work, but doctors don’t want want to prescribe them. So i alternate the two, juggling in hopes of dealing with the pain while avoiding rebound headaches from the medications.

    I’ve never met or talked to anyone else who has the smell-triggered migraine type. Sometimes I think if I could just talk to someone else who knows what this is like, I wouldn’t feel so much like a freak — anybody out there?

    1. Smells are overboard. I wok in medicine too….you know, around sick people. At the nursing station I am expected to chart on my patients with people right in front of me yelling, threatening, pounding on the desk at the nurses and doctors…..and I am expected, even in a migraine, to finish my assignments as if I were fine, asking to leave for a cup of coffee……
      I am getting several a month. In the past they hospitalized me because the vomiting would trigger seizures. At least I am past that. But smell is unbearable for me. The cleaning supplies they use are suffocating, overwhelming. I get frantic, panicky, knowing I am not safe and cannot think clearly. I get emotional because no one seems to understand how real this is.

  28. I have had a history of migraines for a number of years, but sought medical treatment only periodically. I am now 51, post-menopausal, and have had some very concerning migraine symptoms that sent me running to my primary care physician, then to a local neurologist, then finally, to one who specializes in the treatment of migraines.
    These newest series of migraines are not the most painful ones I’ve ever experienced, but have been accompanied by scary cognitive impairments that interfere with my job, and with my daily life. I once ran a traffic light that was clearly red, causing an accident, and have been unable to read orally the words from a page in when I could see them and think them, but something altogether different came out of my mouth. Not good for a first grade teacher! These experiences were while suffering rather routine migraine episodes.
    I honestly believed that I may be suffering from ealy onset demtia, and was relieved when the specialist assured me that my experiences indicated complex migraines, and that my symptoms were simply another kind of migraine aura. I began treatment, and have far fewer migraines. I am not particularly happy with the side effects of the medication, but for the most part, things are better, and I not longer worry that I am losing the ability to think clearly. At least I am not a danger to others on the highway!

  29. Having had another episode last Sunday of more strange symptoms, I did a search and found this site again. Reading the comments I found one I made from two years ago. Wow.

    My symptoms have become more varied over the past two years. It think the “brain storm” moves over different areas of my brain and thus causes different symptoms.

    The recent episode is a day of recurring “dream-like” occurrences. Daytime dreaming. What fun. Not. It is either accompanied by nausea or euphoria and last 5-10 minutes every few hours. There is also sometimes something like amnesia that goes with this type episode.

    I have found that magnesium is helpful in reducing the number of migraine aura. I can go for nearly a week without one now. Also, a couple of baby aspirin taken at the first episode usually will lessen the number of episodes in a day.

    Kris, I haven’t done Botox or any of the prescription drugs for migraine.

    I’m sure I’ll be back here eventually to read about others’ experiences.

    1. I’ve had the dream-like experiences also. Mine lasted a full 2weeks straight. My neurologist labeled it as transient global amnesia and later abandoned me after his EEG, CT scan, MRI, and blood work gave no conclusive results. He cited my case as being too complex when my supervisor sent me home from work after finding out that I no longer remembered how to do my job.
      While the neurologist ran his tests, I did a sleep study and the tech there suspected that I may have been in a semi-concious state during the “amnesia”, something similar to sleepwalking.

  30. I am reading this site as I have gotten tired of wondering why my head is funny – even though I know it’s 99% likely associated with my migraine syndrome. Like Diana, I have “classic migraine” symptoms that occur several times a day but rarely with debilitating pain: blind spots (my most common complaint), flashing lights, inability to read/type accurately (I apologise here for any typos as I am currently in an episode – hence the web search) and of course the other cognitive issues most have raised here. What a relief to know I’m not alone, that it is part of the migraine syndrome, and that it’s likely I won’t have some traumatic brain incident before I finish this paragraph.

    Now for the pressing questions – does it get better, remain the same, or worsen with time? Or is this yet another of the migraine mysteries I must live through to find the answer? I started having severe migraines with pain when I was 13 and as I got older the auras remained but the pain dimished (thank heavens!). Only recently have I had the marked decline in cognitive behaviour and it is now impacting my job on an almost daily basis.

    Final question – has anyone had botox treatments and do they help with the auras or just the pain?

  31. Wow…I am so glad I came here and read these things. I went to the Emergency Room back in December 2008 because I felt “weird” on the left side of my body and my words weren’t right…so I figured I was having a stroke.

    They did all their tests – in fact I was in there for five days while they did a whole lot of other tests – and everything was normal…so it was ruled as a TIA. I had one neurologist come in and say “well, it might have been a migraine instead of a TIA” and left. I didn’t think too much of this because I was not prone to having migraines. I am 48, by the way.

    Well, the numbness on the left side comes and goes and facial numbness on one side always makes me run to the mirror and see if my smile is symmetrical and I do the touch my nose with my eyes closed and everything – and everything is always normal. So – since I also have heart problems – and I’m extremely worried I’m going to die any moment – I went to the neurologist the other day and he stated given my “ice-pick stabbing headache” and the numbness I feel I probably am experiencing something called a “hemiplegic migraine”.

    But while I am okay with that – and I’m not scared to death each time I get numbness – I started getting another symptom: I type funny. I will type other words and will get hung up on the easiest word to type – words you don’t have to think when you type as they come automatic…and I’ve also said words like “I’m not doing this on person…” instead of “I’m not doing this on purpose…” It is so incredibly scary. And I’m so afraid to Google as I WILL find something leading to death in three clicks or less.

    So, I’m glad I noticed others have the “spelled funny” words. I thought I was having Alzheimer’s in the early stages (my concentration and thinking processes aren’t normal either) – or I thought I was having Mad Cow Disease. And a few others thrown in for good measure…even tho the neurologist told me I was not.

    But the new symptoms with the words are very disconcerting. I phoned my regular doctor up a couple hours ago and she said she didn’t think I was having a stroke – but to call the neurologist to tell him about my new problem.

    I swear the longer I live – the more things start breaking down. I’m like a car with 250,000 miles on it. Sigh…

    1. I received a preliminary TIA diagnosis following stroke-like symptoms and 2 weeks of transient global amnesia about 3 months before my 35th birthday. 8 weeks before my 35th, I spent 3 days in the hospital after some more stroke-like symptoms. Neurologist there diagnosed me with complicated migraines. During the stroke teams’ evaluation, the speech therapists found that I had no clue what I did for a living. After returning to work, my supervisor found out that I no longer knew how to perform my job. I am set to join a training class on 7/5/16, but it hurts my head to read or have complex thoughts.
      Before this, I had already had multiple concussions; now I’ve had 2 more and am missing exits on the highway. I find myself drifting from my lane when pain strikes from having to use my brain to navigate a detour and it hurts to place my head against anything for more than a few seconds (memory foam pillow, car’s headrest, hand or a baseball cap).
      My migraines cause no pain but do induce either visual auras or hemiplegic cold hands or feet multiple times a day.

  32. I never had a migraine until I was 34. The first one did not affect me with pain, but it affected my speech center. More specificaly, I could not read words out loud. Each time I did, the words would come out sounding like I was speaking another language. Although that has never happened again, I still have migraines that seem to affect my speech center. Yesterday, I noticed that I could not spell! Simple words like “try” and “soon.” That was when I realized that another migraine was on the way. I hurried to send off a few emails before I laid down to rest. Today, after being incapacitated all day yesterday, those couple of emails are really funny. Even though I knew that I needed to be “extra careful with my spelling”, the emails are still funny. Although, the word processor made sure that none of the words were misspelled, I used the wrong words! I am worried that my migraines are getting worse. I don’t want to take pills everyday, but I’m afraid of the alternative.

  33. I have migraine sans pain. At least not the debilitating kind of heard about. Thank the Lord for that small favor. I started with a simple aura at age 31. At 45 I had deep vein thrombosis. Seems that set the trigger off in my head that something was wrong and to set off neural signals in my brain. Now 53 and menopausal I have “aura” symptoms every day, sometimes more than once a day. This can consist of cognitive difficulties (certainly can relate to not know how to operate my computer!), scintillating scotoma, blind spots, after images, various pains throughout my body, numbness, weakness, tingling. Had one doc prescribe anti-anxiety medicine. He kept asking me how things were at home. Good, doc, good. It’s my head that’s scrambled, not my life. Hoping this daily bit ceases or at least lessens once I’m past the big “M”.

  34. I have had migraines since I was 13, and now I’m 59. Yesterday I had a migraine. Today, for the very first time, I went to work and could not function. I tried to read my emails and couldn’t make sense of them. I got panicky, and called my doctor. When I got home to wait for my appt. my partner looked up migraines and found that cognitive difficulties can be an after effect of migraines. I called my doctor’s office and her nurse confirmed that, so I cancelled the appointment. I’m still reeling from the fact that this is the very first time in all these years that I have had noticeable cognitive problems after a migraine. It was so marked and I’m trying to chill — and hoping that this pain I feel is not the onset of another one!

  35. I have stood at an ATM machine and not known where to put my debit card or what else to do to retrieve money or I can’t remember how to turn the phone off or the computer on and sometimes I don’t know how to spell even the simplest words. And insurance still says there is nothing wrong with me.

    That’s the rub. And you know that insurance companies will be the last ones to recognize all these other symptoms!


    1. I get so stupid during migraines that I forget remedies for my severe discomfort. I have an ice pack in the freezer, lavender oil for a hot bath, an organic bees wax ointment I made with essential oils for migraines, and worst of all, WHERE IS MY MEDICATION?!?!?! I forget simple things around the house. It scares me to drive. I cannot tackle new tasks because I cannot even get through mundane daily routines.

  36. Note to self: do not post with a migraine.

    See? I thought I had better cognitive skills than I obviously had, because my comments were not terribly clear. What it should say is that there were “subtle but significant” cognitive differences in migraine sufferers as compared to individuals with tension-type headaches.

    I also wanted to challenge the statement that triptans reverse the cognitive difficulties. I’d really like to see hard data on this–like neuropsychological testing data, and not patient self-report, because when I posted last night I was pain-free post-triptan, and I was CLEARLY not 100% cognitively.

    In any case, since when was serotonin the only player in cognition? Dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine…and you just never do know what all that glutamine is doing.

    I agree–the jury’s not in. Which is why I feel so very strongly about prevention. If we can decrease the overall lifetime burden of migraine attacks, maybe, just maybe, we can prevent whatever it is that happens to brain to cause the “subtle but significant” cognitive differences–and any other brain changes that might result.

    I hadn’t thought of prevention in that way — only in terms of reducing the frequency of migraines.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants to try some new preventives! (And I’m seeing a sleep specialist tomorrow.)


  37. very interesting data, kerrie. i must add, as i had been a pt in one such hosp, and it wasn’t a positive outcome, i find a lot of the lit. they put out there, is dead-on. however, there is still some arguing to be done as far as ‘cognitive and memory’ are concerned; as to returning or diminishing, in my case, i’ve been experiencing this garbage of migraine since i was a little kid, like 5, the older i get, the harder they come, and i’m telling you, my memory and my cognitive skills are definitely NOT what they used to be.

    thank you for the information.

    Thanks for the input. I try to ignore that the cognitive effects may last beyond the migraine. I just don’t want to believe it!!


  38. Only recently were the massive headaches I have been having diagnosed as migraines, but I think that’s because I used to only get them about once every six months or so. Recently I’ve gotten two or three a month.

    A few weekends ago, I was attending a conference when a migraine set in and I found myself with cotton mouth — I COULD NOT DRINK ENOUGH WATER!

    And since I had to (at least try to) pay attention during the sessions, I found myself doing weird, distracting movements to try and give my mind a distraction so that it could focus on the speaker and not the pain. It was almost like these were forced ticks and twitches.

    But I paid a huge price… it was by far the worst headache I ever had and it lasted longer than any before.


    PS I’m 36.

    I’m sorry you had such a bad one. Interesting about the twitches. I’m curious to know if they continue or were just that one time.


  39. OTOH….

    This states that in a study of migraineurs at age 26 who had been diagnosed in childhood, some as early as age 3, there were “subtle but significant” cognitive differences from indivuiduals with tension-type headache.

    It may depend on age at onset.

    There is also an interesting study recently done that showed that migraine sufferers overestimate their cognitive abilities during an attack–particularly in the early phases. I could probably find the link if I didn’t have a stooopid MIGRAINE.

    That’s fascinating.


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