Hemiplegic Migraine: A Rare Type of Migraine

Hemiplegic migraines are extremely rare, affecting around one in every 10,000 people and usually begin early in childhood.

It is known to run in families, although, it can also occur randomly in people who have no family history of the condition. When a hemiplegic migraine occurs without any family element it is known as sporadic hemiplegic migraine.

Hemiplegic Migraine Symptoms

Hemiplegic migraines share many symptoms with basilar-type migraines and it can lead to difficulties determining the difference between the two. The major difference in helping to tell the two apart is sufferers of hemiplegic migraine won’t suffer from muscle weakness after the migraine attack has ended.

Any sign of muscle weakness will completely dissipate within an hour of the migraine attack ending and tends to happen more in the upper region of the body than below the waist.

Common symptoms of hemiplegic migraine:

  • Any symptoms associated with aura migraines
  • Muscle weakness, generally on one side of the body which dissipates when the migraine attack has ended
  • Vision changes – partial/loss of vision, seeing flickering lights, lines or spots
  • Difficulty when trying to speak, this also dissipates when the migraine attack has ended
  • Severe head pain

Diagnosing Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraine is the only form of migraine that is scientifically proved to run in a family and as such diagnosis in most cases require at least one member of the immediate family or a close relative to have the exact same type of migraine attacks.

Many of the symptoms – vision changes, difficulty trying to speak, muscle weakness, severe head pain – are also associated with having a stroke and if a person experiences the symptoms it is advisable to seek professional help immediately. It is also possible to misdiagnose the symptoms of hemiplegic migraines as epilepsy.

A person will only be diagnosed as having sporadic hemiplegic migraines if they have experienced attacks repeatedly and other causes, such as stroke, have been ruled out as a reason for the symptoms.

Treating hemiplegic migraines is similar to the steps undertaken in treating any type of migraine. You should keep a diary to record your migraine symptoms, frequency of attacks, how long the episodes lasted etc. in order to isolate and identify any possible triggers.

Hemiplegic migraines tend to become much less frequent as a person grows older and adults are less likely to suffer attacks of this kind than children or teenagers.