A headache can put a damper on your day, but a hemiplegic migraine can do much more than that. It can actually paralyze you with pain.
Headaches come and go, sometimes leaving you feeling drained and nauseated. Some are much worse than others as well. Like a migraine, for instance, this type of a headache doesn’t always just go away with a traditional pain reliever. A strong migraine can make you pull your hair out. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. Another level up from a migraine is a hemiplegic migraine. A hemiplegic migraine can be frightening, to say the least. Not even a long nap can take away this type of head pain.
What is a hemiplegic migraine?
A hemiplegic migraine often develops in childhood causing paralyzing pain and confusion. Literally, this type of head pain can cause weakness, or hemiplegia, on one side of the body and many other horrifying symptoms.
A hemiplegic migraine comes in two types:
- Sporadic hemiplegic migraine– Happens in one individual without warning
- Familial hemiplegic migraine-passed down genetically from parent or grandparent
Causes of a hemiplegic migraine
A hemiplegic migraine is caused by a mutation of certain genes in the body. Most of the time, this condition does come from parents or grandparents who also had this mutation. Therefore, largely, it is genetic, but not exclusively.
On the other hand, these mutations can be random and strike someone who has no known history of this condition in their family. Mutations found in these four genes, CACNA1A, ATP1A2, SCN1A, and PRRT2, contribute to hemiplegic migraines.
Any time a mutation is present in any of these genes, the body has problems making needed proteins. These proteins are what enables nerve cells to send signals to certain areas. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin. Most people understand the significance of this messenger. If not, serotonin is responsible for our mood, sleep, appetite, and memory.
Symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine
A hemiplegic migraine can cause a variety of symptoms, much worse than an ordinary headache. If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor immediately, as these symptoms can worsen.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hemiplegia or weakness of one side of the body
- Increased sensitivity to light or sound. (sound-phonophobia or light-photophobia)
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Any vision drastic changes
- Loss of consciousness or coma
- The pain associated with a severe headache
Triggers that cause these migraines
The main thing that you might want to reduce would be high contact sports, as this is seen as a definite trigger to hemiplegic migraines. Secondary triggers can include stress, hunger, fatigue, and certain weather conditions.
Menstruation and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have also been seen to trigger these types of migraines. The best way to understand your own personal triggers would be to journal your experience with each event. This allows you to know for certain what conditions cause your own hemiplegic attacks.
You also have to understand the difference between a hemiplegic migraine and ordinary headache, as these have different triggers and symptoms. Never try to self-diagnose. You should never assume that you have a hemiplegic migraine until tests confirm the fact. Only a medical professional can conduct the necessary tests to discover this diagnosis.
A CAT or MRI scan will help determine if you have experienced a stroke. Viewing the blood vessels in the neck will help eliminate any indications of a blood clot and further target the hemiplegic migraine as the culprit.
Treatment for a hemiplegic migraine
A hemiplegic migraine has symptoms that closely resemble serious conditions such as epilepsy or stroke, and this is why it’s important to discover the difference. Early detection is key to finding the right cure or treatment. When you know what you’re dealing with, you can eliminate all other concerns as well.
There are a couple of ways to treat this debilitating problem. There are both acute and preventative measures which can be used to help in this case. Treatments which both target the symptoms of the migraines and provide solutions to decrease the onset can be used simultaneously.
Just as diagnostics, you should never attempt to self-treat this condition either. Always consult your physicians beforehand.
If you think you might be suffering from a hemiplegic migraine, seek help immediately. Be well.
By Sherrie H.