If you’ve not had one before, a migraine which leaves you partially or fully paralysed is terrifying. Will the paralysis last? Are you having a stroke?
A migraine that causes you paralysis or muscle weakness, often on one side of the body rather than all over, is known as a hemiplegic migraine. This is a rare form of migraine that affects approximately one in every ten thousand people. Its main distinguishing feature, which puts it apart from other forms of migraine is the muscle weakness, which will completely disappear after the migraine ends. However, other symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine can include a visual and/or sensory aura, loss of vision (either partial or completely), difficulty in speaking, and, of course, head pain.
Hemiplegic migraine falls into two categories. One is sporadic hemiplegic migraine – which is where hemiplegic migraines occur without a family history of this form of migraine, and the other is familial hemiplegic migraine – the only form of migraine which has been scientifically confirmed to run in families. For familial hemiplegic migraine, at least one close relative or person in the immediate family must have the same type of migraine attacks.
One big problem with hemiplegic migraines is that the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine – muscle weakness, vision changes, pain, and difficulty speaking, are also the signs of a stroke. For this reason, whether or not you have a family member who suffers from hemiplegic migraines themselves, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Once you’ve confirmed with medical staff that what you are experiencing is hemiplegic migraines (sporadic hemiplegic migraine can only be safely diagnosed as such if the person experiences repeated attacks, and a diagnosis of stroke and transient ischemic attacks has been ruled out), then you can begin treatment to help you cope with and reduce your migraine’s frequency and intensity.
Treatment for hemiplegic migraine is not too different from the treatments which are recommended for many other, more common types of migraine. These can include prescription drugs such as triptans and CGRP blockers – for acute symptom relief, preventative medications such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, but also more unusual treatments such as nerve stimulators, acupuncture, vitamin supplements and biofeedback.
The main things to remember if you have hemiplegic migraines are that there are treatments out there, that the migraine pain and paralysis will pass, and that that you’re not alone – there are people who can help you.