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updated 4/1/2004 6:32:52 PM ET 2004-04-01T23:32:52

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Our experienced medical journalist Jeanie Davis took your questions about headache to specialists. Here's what she found out.

Side Effects
Question: What causes the so-called aura before a migraine and what would cause it to continue for four to five days and the headache go from light to severe but not stop?

Answer: Our understanding aura is better than it was a decade ago. We used to think aura meant that part of the brain was not getting as much blood or oxygen as it needed, which caused tingling and visual effects.

We realize today that aura is an electrical event in the brain, a wave of electrical activity that moves across the brain surface. If nerve cells get caught in this, it causes aura.

Auras typically occur before onset of headaches, but one-fourth of people have aura during headache. However, if aura lasts more than 60 minutes, see a neurologist. -- Dr. Roger Cady,  private practice headache specialist, Springfield, Missouri.

Question: I have been suffering from recurring migraines for the past few years, and every time I get them, parts of my body go numb, ranging from my face to my arms. I would really appreciate it if you could explain why this is happening, and if it is normal.

Answer: The types of symptoms you describe relate to the different types of migraines. Migraine activity can occur in many different areas of the brain, and that determines the types of symptoms -- like numbing -- that occur.

Basilar migraines, for example, involve the brain stem, which produces double vision, ringing in the ears, sometimes loss of consciousness, speech problems. This is one of the more unusual types of auras; you should see a neurologist. -- Dr. Roger Cady, private practice headache specialist, Springfield, Missouri.

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