Could my Migraines be a warning of following family history of stroke?

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    I, unfortunately, have had "vascular" migraines since the age of 18. I am now 62. With every migraine I thought I was having a stroke because of the symptoms, i.e., aura, tunnel vision, numbness of either arm and fingers, speech problems, ringing in the ears. I went to several doctors only to be told that they were migraines and there was nothing they could do and was prescribed Vicodin, a pain medicine. My mother, grandmother, 2 uncles have all passed away from strokes. Every time I have a migraine, I still think that I am having a small stroke. I have been told that some migraines do run in the family but I think that maybe I am fighting the inevitable which would be a stroke. I have had an MRI and a couple of other tests to rule out a stroke and everything has come back normal. My question is, could these migraines be a warning that I am following in my relatives’ footsteps and is there any kind of test that I can take to alleviate my concerns. My family history on my mother's side is enough to worry anyone. Thank you for any advice you can give me because I am tired of worrying whether or not these migraines are migraines and not the onset of a stroke. Thank you for you help and your time. Cathy.

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    Full Answer:

    Dear Cathy;


    The issue of stroke and migraines causing it have low numbers but it is 100% if you do. Eliminating risk factors is the best we can do at this time (diet, keeping sugar and BP and triglycerides etc in check, stopping smoking etc are the key elements. I can’t give you a definitive answer, but the family history of stroke may be separate from migraines per se.


    By way of sharing information, the "vascular" theory of Migraine is long gone. We now know that Migraine is a genetic neurological disease. There is often a vascular component, but we now know that the vasodilation that used to be thought to be such a large part of Migraine doesn't always occur at all, and when it does, neuronal activity precedes it.


    To ease your mind, find a good Migraine specialist to work with. Talk about your symptoms and when you should be concerned that they might indicate stroke as well as reducing your modifiable risk factors for stroke and when you should seek medical care for a Migraine. If you need help finding a Migraine specialist, there's a link below to our listing of patient recommended specialists.


    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert



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    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and  Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and  Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.


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    Last updated February 19, 2011.

Published On: February 19, 2011