I blog about my journey with Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine. Most people hear the words but hang on to the word Migraine at the end and think, “she has a headache”. The vast majority, including medical professionals, never stop to think about the implications of the two words I said before the word Migraine. So, I want to break down what they words mean and then discuss how it is much more than having a headache.
What Does Chronic Mean?
According to Medicine.net, the medical definition for chronic is:
A chronic condition is one that lasts 3 months or more. Chronic diseases are in contrast to those that are acute (abrupt, sharp, and brief) or subacute (within the interval between acute and chronic).
When relating the word to Migraine however, this definition does not completely work. To be considered to have Chronic Migraine a person must have 15 or more migraine days per month for at least a 3 month period of time.
I currently have 27 Migraine Days on average and I have for almost 2 years. That definitely puts me in the Chronic Migraine category.
What Does Hemiplegia Mean?
According to the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, the medical definition for Hemiplegia is:
Total or partial paralysis of one side of the body that results from disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain
I experience Hemiplegia during my Migraine attacks. The right side of my body is partially paralyzed. My right arm goes completely numb and the right side of my face droops. Very rarely will my leg be affected but on occasion my leg will feel heavy. Even the right side of my throat and tongue will be numb.
What does Migraine Mean?
First, let me say that it does not mean headache and in fact, you can have a migraine without having a headache!
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, a Migraine is defined as:Migraine is
A neurological disease with extremely incapacitating neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. Another symptom is a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head.
So, headache is a symptom of the migraine rather than being the migraine itself.
For many years, I had Silent Migraines or Migraines without a Headache. When you have those, all of the other symptoms are present during the attack.
Defining Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine
After breaking it down, it is easier to understand what my diagnosis is and what it is not.
Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine is:
A Migraine that includes temporary paralysis as well as other neurological symptoms including possible severe headache that occurs for at least 15 days per month for at least a 3 month period.
What this Means
More often than not, I have one Hemiplegic Migraine per day. That means that my right arm becomes temporarily paralyzed and my face droops as if I had a stroke. I also have a visual aura (Migraine Explained: What is an Aura?) that cause significant temporary vision loss. Almost every episode will include aphasia (Transient Aphasia – When the Words Won’t Come). Currently, my episodes do include a severe headache that always begins in the same spot on the right side of my head and shoots down into my right eye.
I did this post because so many people act like I shouldn’t be having all of the issues that I have because of a headache. Well, that is because I don’t just have a headache! The type of Migraine that i have is so similar to a stroke in appearance that I have to undergo stroke protocol if I go to the ER. In fact, Hemiplegic Migraine increases my risk for stroke.
I hope you have a more complete picture of what my life is like with Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine.
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