One of the stigmas most people that battle Migraines have to endure is that it is “just a bad headache”. Nothing could be further from the truth as I discussed in the four-part series, The Phases of Migraine. There are also some serious complications that can occur due to Migraine and one of those is Migrainous Stroke or Migrainous Infarction.
What is a Migrainous Stroke?
Migrainous Stroke, also called Migrainous Infarction, is when an Ischemic Stroke occurs during a Migraine attack. In order to further understand this, it is important to recognize what an Ischemic Stroke is. According to the American Stroke Association, an Ischemic Stroke is, “when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed.”
Migrainous Stroke is a rare occurrence but it is very important to recognize the symptoms. Seeking treatment immediately is imperative in order to get life saving treatment.
Migrainous Stroke Symptoms
In order for a stroke to be classified as a migrainous stroke, the Stroke must happen in conjunction with a migraine with aura. the Majority of ischemic strokes occur suddenly, and time is crucial.
Some of the symptoms of a migraine with aura include:
- Flashes of light
- Blind spots
- Tingling in the hands or face
You can find out more about Migraine Aura and other symptoms, HERE. Although these symptoms can be alarming, having these symptoms does not mean that you are definitely having a Migrainous Stroke. Now we need to look at the symptoms of Stroke to put together the next piece of the puzzle.
The American Stroke Association states that the symptoms of Ischemic Stroke include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion
- Sudden trouble speaking
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Because the symptoms of some types of Migraine, such as Hemiplegic Migraine, can mimic a Stroke. It is very important that you know what is normal for you and look for any inconsistencies when you have Migraine attacks.
If you ever experience the symptoms of a stroke, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention. Stroke is a life threatening condition and minutes matter! Call 9-1-1 immediately!
Risk Factors for Migrainous Stroke
Although the connection between Migraine and Stroke are not completely understood, research has shown an increase of stroke risk in patients with Migraine Aura. Women age 45 and younger also appear to have a greater risk due to hormonal changes and birth control medications.
I know that my doctor doesn’t prescribe Triptan abortive medications because those can increase stroke risk. Since I have Hemiplegic Migraine and my Aura symptoms last for a long duration, he doesn’t use any medications that would also increase my stroke risk.
Family history is also an indicator of Stroke risk. If you have parents, grandparents or siblings that have had a Stroke, you have an elevated risk for stroke as well.
Decreasing your Risk for Migrainous Stroke
While you Migraine with Aura doesn’t have a cure, it is important to focus on reducing your risk factors of Stroke. Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can reduce your risk for Stroke. Because smoking increases your risk substantially, it is important to stop smoking. Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes is also imperative to reducing your risks.
Migrainous Stroke is Rare
Although Migrainous Stroke is rare, it is important to know the risks and symptoms so you are ready to act if necessary. Because of the stigma that Migraine is “just a headache”, the seriousness of the complications are often overlooked. Know what your typical Migraine looks like and acknowledge any differences and seek treatment immediately if necessary.
Migraine Explained Series:
- Migraine Explained: Cognitive Dysfunction
- Migraine Explained: Migraine Triggers
- Migraine Explained: Season Change
- Migraine Explained: Allodynia
- Migraine Explained: Status Migrainosus
Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information and first hand accounts about a serious medical condition. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice.