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While millions of Americans experience migraines, all migraines are not created equal. Different types of migraines come with different symptoms, and some have the potential to be more serious than others. The familial migraine, often referred to as a familial hemiplegic migraine, is not very common, but it’s often quite difficult to diagnose. This type of migraine has the potential to look like other medical conditions, making it tough to finally decide on treatment. Here’s a closer look at this type of migraine, potential triggers, and symptoms.
What is a Familial Migraine?
A familiar migraine is a type of hemiplegic migraine, but it is classified separately because it’s the only type of migraine confirmed to be inherited genetically. This is a type of migraine that comes with aura, and it is diagnosed based on whether patients have a close relative who also experiences this type of migraine. With this specific type of migraine, neurological symptoms often accompany the headache, including double vision, flashing lights, and blind spots. Temporary weakness or numbness that only affects one side of the body may also occur. In rare cases, severe episodes in individuals with familial hemiplegic migraines have occurred, resulting in seizures, coma, prolonged weakness, coma, and in extremely rare cases, death.
What can trigger a Familial Migraine?
The potential triggers of a familial migraine are usually quite similar to those of other types of migraines. Possible triggers may include:
- Physical exertion
- Certain types of foods
- Disturbances in normal sleep patterns
- Stress and anxiety
- Certain beverages
- Bright lights, flickering lights, or flashing lights
What percentage of people are affected by Familial Migraines?
This type of migraine is extremely rare. In fact, experts estimate that just 0.01% of the population will ever experience this type of migraine. Studies do show that women are at least twice as likely to deal with familial hemiplegic migraines than men are.
How does a Familial Migraine affect most people?
Most people who experience familial migraines will experience auras, which are early symptoms that occur before the headache pain occurs. Some of these early symptoms may include:
- Difficulty with coordination and balance
- Vomiting and nausea
- Throbbing, severe pain that may occur on just one side of the head
- Paralysis on one side of the body
- Weakness that only affects one side of the body
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Numbness on just one side of the body
- Feeling of pins in the needles that may move up the arm
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensitivity to smells, light, and sound
- Extreme confusion
- Double vision, blind spots, or zigzag lines in the vision
- Slurred speech
- Difficulties using language, such as problems remembering words or mixing up words
These symptoms may last for a few minutes or several hours, although they can be more severe with this type of migraine. For some, stroke like symptoms, such as paralysis, may become disabling. In rare cases, patients continue to have difficulty with coordination and movement.
Three different genes have been linked to familial migraines, including SCN1A, CACNA1A, and ATP1A2. While they are genetic, treatments are available. Schedule your consultation with our experienced physician today to learn more about your available treatment options.