Hemiplegic Migraines


Hemiplegic Migraines - Although extremely rare, hemiplegic migraine is the most extreme and frightening type of migraine. Visual disturbances are the most common symptom for people who have migraines with aura, but during a hemiplegic migraine, muscle weakness may become so severe that paralysis on one side of the body – similar to symptoms of a stroke or epilepsy – appears. This unusual, temporary paralysis called hemiplegia can last anywhere from 5 minutes to one hour. Stroke-like symptoms associated with hemiplegia can range from very mild paralysis to extremely debilitating.

This migraine is classified as two types: Familial Hemiplegic and Sporadic Hemiplegic. Familial hemiplegia is an inherited condition that may be passed down to other generations. With sporadic hemplegia, there is no family connection whatsoever. Familial hemiplegia occurs more often than sporadic hemiplegia. Studies show that 1 in 10,000 people suffer from these two types of migraines and just like other types of migraines; more females are affected than males.

In addition to the severe migraine headache with aura which can last from a few hours to a few days, hemiplegic migraine symptoms include a tingling sensation that usually begins in the hand and moves up the length of the arm, numbness on one side of the body which can include the leg, arm, and face, paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, uncoordination, loss of balance, and speech problems. Between episodes, most sufferers completely recover from their symptoms. However, memory problems, coordination difficulties, and problems paying attention can linger for weeks or even months.

The cause of this rare disorder is found in the genes. Three particular genes have been linked with this type of migraine. A certain protein is needed for nerve cells to communicate with one another. Defects in any of these genes lead to the inability to make the protein. Without this protein, nerve cells cannot properly communicate, thus causing the temporary stroke-like symptoms.

The treatment of hemiplegia is controversial. Triptans are usually not prescribed for these types of migraines. A doctor may prescribe preventative medicines, however, or injectable medicines to take during an attack if symptoms are very severe.

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