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What Is a Hemiplegic Migraine?
A hemiplegic migraine is a type of migraine that often begins in childhood and includes symptoms similar to those of a stroke. The condition is known to cause temporary weakness on one side of the body, which can result in temporary paralysis, called hemiplegia, on the weakened side.
The weakness that is experienced with a hemiplegic migraine may also be accompanied by a numbing sensation of pins and needles as though the affected side of the body has poor circulation. Throbbing head pain may or may not be present.
In addition, hemiplegic migraines occur with auras, which frequently involve visual disturbances, such as blind spots, flashing lights or zig-zagging lines in your field of vision. These migraines also tend to cause confusion and may be mistaken for other conditions, such as epilepsy or stroke.
Two types of hemiplegic migraines have been identified:
Familial Hemiplegic Migraines
If you suffer from familial hemiplegic migraines, other members of your family may also suffer from the condition. Research suggests that these migraines are linked to specific genes that are inherited from your parents. Thus, a person who suffers from hemiplegic migraines may pass the condition on to his or her child. About half of people who have a parent with hemiplegic migraines will incur the disorder.
Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraines
Sporadic hemiplegic migraines occur without a recognizable connection in the patient’s family. The cause of these headaches is unknown. As a result, they are termed “sporadic.”
What can trigger a Hemiplegic Migraine?
Like other types of migraines, hemiplegic migraines can often be triggered by specific factors, such as the following:
- Periods of elevated stress
- Too much or too little sleep
- Bright light, whether natural or artificial
- Periods of intense emotions
How many people are affected by Hemiplegic Migraines?
Research indicates that only about one out of every 10,000 people experience familial hemiplegic migraines. Sporadic hemiplegic migraines are even rarer. They affect about one out of every 20,000 people.
How do Hemiplegic Migraines affect most people?
People who suffer from hemiplegic migraines experience difficulties speaking, vision impairments and confusion during the migraine episodes. In addition, muscular coordination may be severely impaired. The symptoms can last about an hour or may continue for days. However, most sufferers find relief within 24 hours.
Since the symptoms mimic those of a stroke, during a hemiplegic migraine, you may be disabled or fully incapacitated. You may be unable to ambulate properly due to a loss of coordination and balance. In addition, you may feel dizzy and nauseous.
You are likely unable to complete normal functions, such as driving, and may be unable to even think or speak clearly. If you are able to speak, you may find it difficult to remember or enunciate words, and your speech may be severely slurred. In some instances, a person with hemiplegic migraines may lose consciousness.