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.
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.
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert
To review other questions from our Ask the Clinician Column,
browse the Ask the Clinician archives.
If you need help finding a Migraine and headache specialist,
visit our listing of Patient Recommended Specialists.
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.
If you have a question, please click HERE. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers here. Due to the number of questions submitted, no questions will be answered privately, and questions will be accepted only when submitted via THIS FORM. Please do not submit questions via email, private message, or SharePost comments. Thank you.
Please note: We cannot handle emergencies or diagnose via the Internet. Please do not ask us to diagnose; see your physician for diagnosis.
We hope you find this general medical and health information useful, but this Q & A is meant to support not replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. For all personal medical and health matters, including decisions about diagnoses, medications and other treatment options, you should always consult your doctor. See full Disclaimer.
Published On: February 19, 2011