What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Hemiplegic Migraine Headaches

The Classical Migraine

Migraine headaches are the most common type of headache reported. A complex neurological disorder, migraines usually give off warning signals before they strike. In the case of the classical migraine, an aura precedes the actual headache by about 30 minutes and can include such symptoms as light flashes, shimmery lights or lines, and blinking lights. Vision is affected and often muscles, speech, and hearing can be affected as well. Largely, the visual disturbances are the most common symptom of migraine.

A Migraine Of A Different Order

Hemiplegic migraine is a rare type of migraine headache and it is one of the most serious. It can be debilitating and has very severe symptoms, including muscle weakness, and in extreme cases a temporary, stroke-like paralysis on one side of the body. This paralysis is known as hemiplegia. Symptoms of this type of headache begin in childhood and may disappear when the child becomes an adult. Even though the symptoms are very debilitating and frightening, they are temporary and there does not seem to be any evidence of nerve damage with this type of headache. The symptoms can change from episode to episode. One month may include weakness and a headache, and another month may produce paralysis without a headache.

Another Hereditary Issue

Research has discovered that hemiplegic migraines are hereditary and have identified three genes linked with them. If any of the three genes mutates or is defective, then a specific protein is not produced in the body. This protein is important to the clear communication of nerve cells within the body. If the protein is lacking or malfunctioning, nerve cells fail to pick up and release neurotransmitters so there is a breakdown in communication between cells. For most people who suffer with hemiplegic migraines, the gene mutation was inherited from a parent.

Symptoms Of Hemiplegic Migraine

Symptoms of hemiplegic migraine headaches include extended periods of aura, sometimes lasting several days, which may or may not be followed by a headache. Paralysis to one side of the body (simulating a stroke), fever, impaired consciousness, nausea, and vomiting are other common signals. The person may also exhibit the symptoms of meningitis without having the disease or inflammation associated with it. This type of migraine headache can be confusing because some of the symptoms are consistent with other serious disorders.

Seek Medical Attention

If a person has symptoms consistent with hemiplegic migraine, a full evaluation by a medical professional is recommended. This type of headache produces symptoms that could be a stroke, so proper testing should be done to rule it out. Genetic testing for hemiplegic migraine became available in the US in 2006. With testing, the doctor can determine whether the gene mutation is there, supporting the hereditary aspect of the headache. This knowledge is useful in understanding the familial hereditary effects on children.

Treatment options are mixed and there does tend to be some disagreement as to how to treat hemiplegic migraines. It is worthwhile to explore the options and make an educated determination with the physician.