If you experience migraines you’ll know that they aren’t just a bad headache. A migraine can stop you from carrying out normal, everyday activities, and can cause numbness, pins and needles, nausea, and vomiting, and as well as visual disturbances.
In more rare cases, a migraine can cause temporary, mild paralysis on one side of your body. This is known as a hemiplegic migraine, and it can be really scary if you’ve never experienced it before. The good news is, symptoms normally pass within the space of a day.
What is a hemiplegic migraine?
A hemiplegic migraine is a rare type of migraine that causes weakness down one side of the body.
The word “hemiplegic” is used to describe a condition that causes paralysis (“-plegic”) in just one half (“hemi”) of the body. One other cause of this kind of paralysis is a stroke, which is why people who experience a hemiplegic migraine may think their condition is far more serious than it is.
A hemiplegic migraine is thought to be caused by dysfunction in the brain, which affects how chemical messengers like serotonin are released.
What are the symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine?
The characteristic symptom of a hemiplegic migraine is weakness down one side of the body. This weakness can affect the face, arm and leg, and will usually last for several hours. In some cases the symptoms can persist for longer than a day, but this is rare.
It’s common for people who have hemiplegic migraines to experience aura symptoms. These may include vision disturbances (flashing lights, zigzag lines, blind spots), as well as numbness, tingling, and pins and needles. Other symptoms include problems speaking and walking, confusion, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Usually, a hemiplegic migraine will also be followed by a headache. For some people, the headache may come beforehand, or may not occur at all.
What is a familial hemiplegic migraine?
The term “familial hemiplegic migraine” (FHM) is used when the condition affects multiple people in the same family, indicating an inherited genetic defect.
FHM can be diagnosed when two or more people in the family experience weakness down one side of the body when they get a migraine. It’s thought that about 50% of children who have one parent with hemiplegic migraine will develop the disease.
What is sporadic hemiplegic migraine?
The term “sporadic hemiplegic migraine” (SHM) is used when a person with this type of migraine doesn’t have any family members with the condition. The cause here is thought to be a “sporadic” rather than inherited genetic defect.
How is a hemiplegic migraine treated?
It’s really important to get medical help when you experience a hemiplegic migraine. The main symptom – paralysis down one side of the body – could be a sign of something more serious that needs emergency treatment, like a stroke.
It’s likely that you’ll need specialist help to manage your hemiplegic migraines. You can get a referral to a migraine clinic from your GP, or sometimes from a hospital doctor or another type of healthcare professional.
A specialist will be able to recommend treatments that are suited to your condition, and will avoid prescribing medication that doesn’t work for hemiplegic migraines. As an example, triptans – a common treatment for other types of migraine – are not thought to be suitable for hemiplegic migraine during the aura phase.
Get help for migraines with LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine, you should speak to your GP, as this is a complex and serious condition.
If you’re experiencing an ordinary migraine without weakness down one side of the body, you may be suitable for treatment through Online Doctor. We can provide triptans, a standard medication for dealing with migraine pain. Visit our secure online migraine clinic to find out more.