From the Editor

When providing contraceptive counseling to women with migraine headaches, how do you identify migraine with aura?

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Of note, visual aura is usually slow-spreading and persists for more than 5 minutes but less than 60 minutes. If a visual symptom has a sudden onset and persists for much longer than 60 minutes, concern is heightened for a more serious neurologic diagnosis such as transient ischemic attack or stroke. A summed score of 5 or more points supports the diagnosis of migraine with aura. In one study, VARS had a sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 96% for identifying women with migraine with aura diagnosed by the ICHD-3 criteria.4

Consider using VARS to identify migraine with aura

Epidemiologic studies report that about 17% of adults have migraine, and about 5% have migraine with aura.10,11 Consequently, migraine with aura is one of the most common medical conditions encountered during contraceptive counseling. The CDC MEC recommend against the use of estrogen-containing contraceptives in women with migraine with aura (Category 4 rating). The VARS may help clinicians identify those who have migraine with aura who should not be offered estrogen-containing contraceptives. Equally important, the use of VARS could help reduce the number of women who are inappropriately diagnosed as having migraine with aura based on fleeting visual symptoms lasting far less than 5 minutes during a migraine headache.

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