Those who think of migraine as "just a bad headache" may be surprised to hear about hemiplegic migraine, a type of migraine that can involve weakness or even paralysis on one side of the body. But those familiar with migraine know that it's much more than a headache. In fact, it's often not a headache at all! Migraine attacks involve a number of symptoms. Headache is a common one, but there can also be nausea, skin sensitivity, a sensitivity to light or sound, confusion or weakness.
Hemiplegic migraine is a specific type of migraine. Usually, it's divided into two types – sporadic hemiplegic migraine and familial hemiplegic migraine. Both types are similar, the difference being that those with familial hemiplegic have a close relative that gets migraine with aura – particularly the symptom of weakness.
If you've got hemiplegic migraine, either familial or sporadic, you may experience:
* Sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (temporary)
* Numbness, a pins-and-needles prickling sensation
* Difficulty speaking
Headache and hemiplegic migraine may go together. This is considered to be one of the most severe forms of migraine, with reason. The sufferer can be incapacitate by an attack. This is good reason to see a doctor, and if diagnosed to make sure that you carry with you some sort of medical identification at all times.
There are other challenges when it comes to hemiplegic migraine. First, the number of severe symptoms that need to be treated all at once, including weakness or paralysis. Second, the connections with stroke mean that the most common migraine-targeting medications (triptans and egotamines) are not recommended.
There is good news! For one thing, new genetic research is helping us to diagnose this type of migraine more easily. Also, there are many other migraine treatments and medications that can be used, and that have been used successfully. The important thing, however, is to seek expert help as soon as possible. If you're already aware of a migraine connection, find a headache and migraine specialist if at all possible. If you're not sure, make sure you see a doctor so that she can rule out other severe problems, such as stroke. If you seek help right away, you can avoid serious problems. There is help available, as we understand more and more about migraine, paralysis and other types of headache.