Understanding Types of Migraine
Sometimes migraine can cause symptoms and complications in other parts of the body. These migraine variants are often named according to the part of the body that’s affected. Most people who experience migraine variants also experience more typical migraine episodes.
“If your symptoms indicate that you have one of the rare or extreme types of migraines, you can ask your doctor if it’s a condition altogether.”
Hemiplegic migraine affects a very small percentage of people in the United States.
People with hemiplegic attacks experience weakness on one side of the body, and other symptoms that mimic a stroke. The paralysis can last for several days.
There are two types of hemiplegic headaches.
- Familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM). FHM is an inherited genetic migraine disorder that causes hemiplegic migraine. Genetic testing can determine whether you have the gene mutations that are associated with this migraine variant. If your parent, sibling, or child has FHM, the chances of you having FHM are higher.
- Sporadic hemiplegic migraine (SHM). SHM is associated with hemiplegic migraine that occurs in people without the genetic disorder and without a family history of hemiplegic migraine. If you don’t have a relative with diagnosed hemiplegic migraine, doctors may indicate you have SHM.
You have symptoms of hemiplegic migraines on several occasions and both FHM and SHM are diagnosed. Both present the same way, but with a different genetic risk.
A hemiplegic migraine episode will be evaluated as a medical emergency in order to rule out a stroke for those with a family history.
“If you are diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines, your neurologist should tell you what to do if another attack occurs so you don’t have to go through a full evaluation.”
Children are typically most affected by abdominal migraine. Symptoms generally last 1 to 72 hours and include:
- There is a process of flushing.
For children who have been living with this variant for a long time, symptoms may include:
- There are attention deficit problems.
- delayed development
This variant is more common in children with a family history of migraines.
Children with abdominal migraines may be given a prescription by their doctor to help with the headaches.
Children who have abdominal migraines are more likely to have typical migraines when they reach adulthood.
People who have repeated and ongoing migraine attacks may have a variant called chronic migraine. It’s also sometimes called transformed migraine.
Attacks on at least half of the days in a month are what you will experience if you have this variant. You might have a daily or almost daily migraines. You may go through periods of chronic headaches.
The earliest time someone will experience a migraine is in their late teens or early 20s. Food or a smell can be the cause of a migraines episode.
Sometimes called an intractable migraine, status migrainosus is a very serious and very rare migraine variant.
It causes attacks that are so severe that you must be hospitalized.
There are a lot of headaches associated with this variant. You can become dehydrated and need treatment to stay hydrated.
As the name suggests, this type of migraine is related to the menstrual cycle and the changing levels of hormones that precede it.
The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Women’s Mental Health estimates that 7 to 14 percent of people who menstruate experience migraine symptoms during the premenstrual or menstrual phase of their cycles.
Migraine attacks caused by menstruation are more severe and last longer than other attacks.
Retinal migraine is a rare migraine variant characterized by repeated instances of visual disturbances, such as blind spots or blindness on one side of the field of vision.
These can last between a minute and an hour and are usually preceded by head pain.
Basilar migraine (migraine with brainstem aura)
Basilar migraine, also known as Bickerstaff syndrome or migraine with brainstem aura, typically causes dizziness and vertigo prior to head pain.
The following symptoms may be caused by this variant of the migraine.
- ringing in the ears
- slurred speech
- Balance has been lost.
- syncope (fainting)
- Loss of consciousness.
Researchers believe that the type of migraines that occur in adolescents and young women are related to the hormonal changes that affect them at these ages.
What is the most severe type of migraine?
Experiencing a migraine can cause significant pain and interfere with daily life. Status migrainosus or hemiplegic migraines may lead to hospitalization.
It is difficult to assess a single type as the most severe because of the many factors that affect it.
What can be mistaken for a migraine attack?
Some other types of headaches, including tension headaches and medication overuse headaches, may sometimes be mistaken for migraine. Other conditions that cause pain in the head — including sinus infections and the flu — may also resemble migraine pain.
Experiencing symptoms similar to migraines can be caused by hypertension and stroke. It is important to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional so that you can work together on a diagnosis.
What can I do if a migraine attack won’t go away?
It is important to speak with a doctor if you have a migraine episode for more than a day.
If you experience any of the above, you should seek immediate medical attention.
- A sudden throbbing sensation.
- A neck pain accompanied by a headaches.
- A migraine that has persisted for several days.
- Vision loss, confusion, or a combination of the two are symptoms that begin to show up.
Migraine symptoms can be similar to other conditions. If you experience symptoms that are not associated with your usual migraines, speak with your doctor.
These may include:
- slurred speech or a droop on one side of the face
- The limbs have weakness.
- Symptoms include double vision, a high temperature, neck pain, confusion, and a seizure.
- Symptoms are more severe than usual.
- Any loss of consciousness.
Tracking your symptoms, severity, and how often they occur can help you understand changes.
There are many treatment options that you can explore with your healthcare team. Talk to them about your triggers to help prevent attacks.