Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine: A Migraine that produces temporary stroke like symptoms. #hemiplegicmigraine #migraine
Hemiplegic Migraine,  Migraine

Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine Defined

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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

Chronic Hemiplegic Migraine: A Migraine that produces temporary stroke like symptoms. #hemiplegicmigraine #migraineMore 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.

Conclusion:

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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8 Comments

  • Yezenia Newhouse

    Greetings and Peace to all!

    In 2015, I was diagnosed with Hemiplegic Migraines after being in the ER due to one side of my face drooped (I looked as though I was melting).

    For clarity sake let me start at the beginning and briefly recap, I was at work having lunch with a co-worker we were laughing and carrying on with our lunch chatter. It soon came to a halt when my co-worker looked at me with concern “Your face, you need to go to the hospital” Eventually, I did go to the hospital. After I checked into the ER, I was immediately rushed to the back, I underwent an array of testing, prodding, and probing. No one had a clear answer for me, yet I was released the next day none the wiser after my experience, medical staff told me to follow-up with my PCP and provided me with some care instructions. My facial paralysis did not last long, which I am grateful for. So, when I arrived at my PCP office for my follow-up visit, I was concerned I would have the same experience I had in the ER. The doctor examined me briefly and then explained my diagnoses was Hemiplegic migraine, which caused the facial paralysis, my resolve was that I should take my medication (doctor prescribed) as needed and follow-up with a neurologist. Left feeling slightly dumbfounded, I was provided with this little amount of information regarding this condition that was now affecting my body, and later with time and occurrences to find out my way of doing my “normal” day-to-day would dramatically change.
    Fast forward 2020, my condition has in fact drastically changed how I managed my day-to-day; I learned a new normal, and still learning as situations come up. A few days ago, after a massive frail up that has been on-going for several days (still on-going), I decided to see if there was any information on the web that would help. My relief to have found so much more information (among them this Blog – thank you!), not simply about headaches, migraines, Hemiplegic Migraines but clearer and defined understanding of the differences of each, symptoms, triggers, causes, and so much more. While I was relief to have this newfound knowledge, I also realize the severity of my condition. Now able to understand that a lot of what was going on with my body was on account of my condition. Nevertheless, for a moment I felt understood and was part among a small group of individuals affected by this condition. For a while before these findings, I felt like the “Ugly Duck” not belonging because no one could relate or have a clear understanding of what I go through when my condition attacks my body. As stated in this Blog, this is not a headache, or a migraine, and although the word migraine is associated within the name of the condition, this is so much more then either. I was able to share this knowledge with those closest to me, providing them a better understanding and realization of what is happening with me. It has help immensely.

    My gratitude to all who shared and are participates to the promoting of knowledge for this condition which affects not only the individual but also their family, close friends, and employment (if able to work.) My hope is that this knowledge will continue to enlighten individuals and aid in findings for holistic or scientific resolutions of the conditions.

    Blessings to all!

  • Sierra Cornwell

    Thank you for this! It is so hard to explain to people that “migraine” or “headache” just doesn’t cover it. I too go through stroke protocol in the ER as my left arm and leg go numb, and I have trouble speaking during an attack. I understand what you are going through and am thrilled to see that you are getting the word out. Take care!

    • Jen Cannon

      Thank you for the comment. It does sound like we have a lot in common. I started this blig because there seemed like no one was takling about it. Take care and thank you again.

  • Debra

    WOW! Thanks for all the great info. I read the other 2 links as well. I have had chronic migraines for almost 2 years, although it started with conatant dizziness and has progressed into daily migraines, not all are debilitating, however it does drain all my energy. I think I may also have the speech issue. I have a new neurologist, that I am seeing today and will be asking about that. Thanks for sharing!

    • Shakira

      This was very informative. I found myself in this predicament for the first time this past week. I have never been so scared. Thankful that I came across you article.

    • Lori

      I really appreciated reading your blog. I must say it scared me a bit because I went to ER 3 days ago. I have had migraines before but not that often. What I did not know is that one could have a migraine without the headache. I get frequent headaches but I think it’s related to allergies and assumed it was sinus pressure. I wonder if I have had these happen and not recognize them as migraines. I tend to get a reoccurring fatigue several times a week and find myself working part time as a result at 62. One interesting thing is when it sets in I do not do anything for a day or so. If I am tired my speech is not always very clear. I went to the ER because of weakness and pressure( like a blood pressure cuff) on my right arm and pins and needles in my rt hand which spread to my feet. I had a bad headaçhe. The ER was afraid of a stroke. Day 3 I am better but still having pins and needles in my hand and headache although it is not as bad. I will talk to my doctor on Tuesday and make sure I get a referral to a neurologist. From your experience should I ask for a specialist who knows and treats this? Living alone it is scary to think I might get a more severe one. I am counting my blessings no matter what but trying to educate myself. Can you think of any questions that I should ask a neurologist? I am wishing you the very best and thank you for writing about your experience. There is not a lot of information on it and it sets my mind at ease to know others are going through this.

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