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Hemiplegic Migraines: Symptoms and Treatment

Home > Treatment Articles > Migraine Articles > Hemiplegic Migraine Headaches

Although most people will have heard of migraines and even have a good idea of what they are, many people will not be aware that there are a number of different types of migraines and one of the rarer forms of migraine is the hemiplegic migraine. Hemiplegic migraines come in two variations – familial hemiplegic migraine (known as FHM) and sporadic hemiplegic migraine (known as SHM).

Hemiplegic Migraines Symptoms & Diagnoses

Both of these conditions often begin in childhood and then stop in the adult years. They can be difficult to diagnose because there is no actual diagnostic test available and migraine symptoms can be confused with other conditions such as a stroke and epilepsy. Both of these hemiplegic migraines also share the same symptoms:

  • There can be long periods of hemiplegic migraines aura (days or even weeks)
  • There can be paralysis on one side of the body or only a part
  • There can be numbness or a prickly feeling
  • There can be a fever
  • There can be the symptoms of meningitis without the actual illness or accompanying inflammation – this condition is called meningismus
  • There can be impaired consciousness – this could be confusion or even coma
  • There can be headache beginning before the hemiplegia
  • There can be Ataxia which is defective muscle coordination
  • There can be nausea and/or vomiting
  • There can be light and/or sound sensitivity


At the onset of hemiplegic migraines, the symptoms may be so sudden that they seem like a stroke. The paralysis on one side of the body can be frightening since this is a common stroke symptom. The good news is that the symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine are usually gone within 24 hours

The big difference between the two varieties of hemiplegic migraines is that the first - FHM - can be traced back in the family history and has been linked to mutations of specific genes on chromosomes 1 and 19, while SHM has no familial connection and no connection to that specific genetic mutation.

Hemiplegic Migraines Aura

An aura refers to an array of psychological or neurological disturbances that occur shortly before a migraine onset. Auras usually last 5 to 20 minutes and involve symptoms such as vertigo (motion sickness or dizziness), imbalance, confusion or numbness but most auras consist of visual disturbances such as partial vision loss, the appearance of special effects and the distortion of objects. Sometimes the visual effects can be dramatic with bright, flickering or flashing lights, complex color patterns and shapes. There can be zigzag lines or shimmering shapes.

Hemiplegic Migraine Care

If you suffer from hemiplegic migraine, it is a very good idea to wear one of those identity bracelets at all times which gives details of your condition. Such identification can save valuable time in an emergency and ensure that you get the correct treatment quickly for your condition. This is especially important when you consider that a hemiplegic migraine attack can lead to possible unconscientousness as well as an inability to speak.

The treatment of the symptoms of hemiplegic migraines can be difficult as the symptoms are numerous and there are many migraine triggers. If you suffer from hemiplegic migraines, you need to learn all you can about the condition so that you are able to help yourself as much as possible and you need to seek the advice of a medical practitioner who is experienced in dealing with this condition so that you can get the best possible hemiplegics migraine care.

Treatments such as NSAIDs, antiemetics and narcotic analgesics are generally used for relief in hemiplegic migraine care. These are considered the safest option for now, but on going research continues for new migraine medicine and medications.

It is helpful and important to use preventative medications, and calcium channel blockers antidepressants or beta blockers can be very effective preventative medications for FHM.

Go to our Migraine and Headache page