Thursday, October 30, 2014
Thursday, February 21, 2013 KK, Community Member, asks

Q: Scary TIA symptoms yet MRI is normal?

My husband has suffered from Migraines since he was 16. He is now 35. Three of his aunts all have similar migraines. When he gets a migraine his hands go numb and some times his vision is affected, he'll have weakness on his left side, difficulty speaking, and thinking clearly. In 2009 the left hand side of his body went numb and he was in the hospital for four days. They did extensive tests including CAT scans, MRI's, blood work, stress tests, and more. All of the tests came back normal. We recently found a neurologist who specializes in Migraines and he said that my husband might have Basilar Migraine. On Saturday my husband had a horrible migraine attack and his symptoms made me worried that he might be having a TIA or stroke so I took him to the hospital. They gave him an MRI, CAT scan, and did blood work while he was experiencing the migraine. His blood pressure was also through the roof. Then, just like in 2009, all of his test's came back normal. His neurologist came and said that since the test results show that nothing is wrong then my husband must be faking the symptoms and asked if there was something in his life causing him enough stress to cause him to fake a TIA.

Honestly, I was furious. I have watched my husband suffer from these migraines for years. With 15-20 migraine dominated days a month, he has learned to simply push through the pain and rarely complains. There is NO WAY in hell he has been faking all the neurological symptoms that I have observed over our 12 years of marriage. I felt like the neurologist was blaming my husband for his inadequacy as a medical professional; that simply because he didn't understand what was causing my husband's symptoms that he must be faking. Are there other people who suffer from migraines that present neurological symptoms without showing abnormal MRI's or CAT scans? I hope some one out there has answers.

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Answers (4)
Teri Robert, Health Guide
2/22/13 11:50am



-:¦:-•:*'""*:•.-:¦:-•* Welcome to HealthCentral! *•-:¦:-•:*'""*:•.-:¦:-

Tests such as MIR, CT scans, and blood work generally ARE "normal" in Migraine patients. None of them can confirm Migraine. They're used to rule out other issues such as stroke, tumor, etc.

I have no idea who the doctor is who has been treating your husband, but I would suggest getting a second opinion from another specialist. Many of us have encountered doctors who call themselves specialists when they're not. Migraine specialists almost always see patients only for the treatment of Migraine and other headache disorders. It’s important to note that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine and headache specialists. Take a look at the article Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? If you need help finding a Migraine specialist, check our listing of Patient Recommended Migraine and Headache Specialists.

You said that your husband's doctor said he might have basilar-type Migraine. Your husband needs a dianogsis, not "might." It's also important to note that you said he experiences weakness on his left side. True motor weakness occurs only in hemiplegic Migraine. Some people confuse numbness and tingling with weakness, so your husband needs to be sure which is happening during his Migraines.

Take a look at these two articles so you'll have more information to discuss with your husband's doctor:

 • Basilar-Type Migraine - the Basics 

 • Hemiplegic Migraine - The Basics


I hope this information helps. Please keep me posted on how your husband is doing?


Welcome again,


Veronica Loncar, Community Member
2/22/13 1:20pm

I've also been having these for years too.  Many people and even doctors don't understand what they are.  I have them often during the month as well, my tests are always normal too.  I can have other symptoms too, like a hard time typing correctly, slurring my speech, or not being able to comprehend or express my thoughts, can be very scary at first.  You really need to go to a Headach Specialist to get a real diagnosis.  Of course the stress affects me, but so do a lot of other things. 

ssmith, Community Member
1/15/14 12:28pm

I had only 2 migraines in the past before this one over the weekend.  The last was 2 months ago and the only other was when I was 16.  I'm now 37, consider myself healthy and in decent shape.  The migraine I experienced a couple of months ago started out with my vision being really distorted.  I was driving at the time and had to get my wife to drive.  I couldn't focus on anything.   A few minutes later, I would lose my peripheral vision, and then the headache started on my right side above my eyebrow.  I knew it was probably a migraine that was coming on, as remembering those exact symptoms from when I was younger.  I just wanted to get home as soon as possible, expecting that I would soon be throwing up.  I didn't however.  My first one I had, it made me really sick and remembering having some tingling on my left side.   I didn't have any numbness or tingling  for that migraine a couple of months ago.


  This past weekend, we were out of town in Houston visiting family.  Again driving, my vision seemed not right.  I was wondering if my contact was bothering me but it just kept getting worse. We arrived at the museum we were going to just a few minutes later. When I got out of the car, my peripheral vision was beginning to disappear.  I told my wife, that I was probably getting a migraine.  Took 2 ibuprofine, and went get a coke and sat down.  In an instant, my left arm went totally numb. Not just tingling or feeling strange-dead asleep, fat finger feeling.  I wasn’t feeling much of a headache at this time, so we continued in the museum.   The numbness lasted a few minutes.  Everything was pretty dark, so I wasn't feeling much head pain from any light.  I could feel the headache slowly getting worse in my upper eyebrow area. My arm went numb again instantly.   We decided to leave.  On the drive back to my relatives’ home, the pain was unbearable.  We went to the ER around 2:00 p.m. and I was seen immediately.  I had a CT scan done about 30 minutes after being seen.  That came back normal, but the doctor wanted to admit me for further tests.  Later that afternoon, I had a MRI on my neck and head.  The following morning I had an ultrasound on my carotid arteries and an EEG of brain wave activity.  The neurologist came in at 8:00 pm that night and said all of my tests were normal, other than that my sinuses were blocked some.   Now I know what I had was not just a sinusitis issue. I have sinus problems all my life and I know what sinus pressure pain is.  This was nothing of the sort.  Maybe a migraine on top of the sinus issue, but the doctor treated me like I was wasting his time because it appeared to only be a sinus headache!  He never could explain to me why my arm went totally numb.  I began researching migraines and strokes here on the internet, and came across TIA.  It sounds like all of the symptoms I was having could indicate a TIA.  If it was not that, perhaps just a really bad migraine?   But not having a frequent history of migraines, I don’t know what it actually was. 


KK, Community Member
3/15/13 11:38pm

Dear Teri,


Thank you for your response.  My husband's migraines have continued relentlessly since the 16th of February without a break.  His neurologist is a Migraine specialist.  We saw him again this morning and he told us that the migraines are the manifestation of some traumatic experience in my husband's past.  This might make sense except for the fact that my husband had a good childhood and the kind of traumatic events that might qualify as a Post-Traumatic Stress causing event happened after his migraines began.  When I suggested that there may be some other physical cause for my husband's symptoms he told me point plank that it was not possible and that he would not continue to treat my husband unless he was psychoanalyzed first.  We will be going to see a different Migraine specialist however I would be lying if I didn't admit that this experience has discouraged us greatly.  


Thanks for all your responses.  It helps to know we are not alone.



Teri Robert, Health Guide
3/15/13 11:41pm

Thanks for updating us. I'm going to send you a private message.



mbu, Community Member
4/27/14 2:06pm

Dear KK, I only joined the community today and have now read your post regarding your husband's so-called PTSD. It makes me want to scream with frustration because the same has been said to me recently.....after five years of same diagnosis from various neurologists. For heaven's sake, every member of society suffers stress at one time or another and this word is bantered about as a diagnosis for just about anything when they really just can't come up with an answer. Keep up your are really not alone.

Erica, Community Member
2/22/13 12:21pm

My tests always come back normal.  Always.  I've also been asked if I've been stressed in my life, which of course I am, who isn't.  I was recently told I have Conversion Disorder because my tests were normal and so the Neurologist didn't believe I was experieincing anything neurological.  She believed my mind was manifesting these symptoms, but she did not tell me I was making it up, she simply said that stress could be causing my mind to manifest this stress as pain.  Sounds reasonable, but I do not believe this is my problem.  I do, however, believe that stress may be making my Hemiplegic Migraine attacks worse.  Stress always exaggerates any illness, no matter what it is you suffer from.  There are people out there who do fake it and unfortunately it makes all of us who really do feel pain and weakness with normal results.  I have Hemiplegic Migraines, it's possible your husband does too.  You should really look into finding a Migraine Specialist or Headache Treatment Center.  I was originally diagnosed with Basilar Artery Migraine and later Hemiplegic Migraine.  Good Luck!!

Victoria B, Community Member
12/31/13 9:18pm
Its a long time since you posted, and I can't help with treatment or stopping your husband from getting them, but I know exactly how you are feeling, sympathise completely and hope in some way my words will help you a little bit. I suffer from migraines, and although I no longer get numbness or weakness on one side I did for many years and other symptoms like problems finding words and pins and needles. Having worked in the past with stroke patients and having a knowledge of TIAs it used to scare me (and still does) wondering what must be happening inside my brain to be getting symptoms so like aTIA - stroke like symptoms that last for less than 24 hours (as I always understood it). I once had a migraine whilst working on a student placement on a stroke unit, and knew what was happening and that I just needed to get into bed in a dark room. However, I was seen by a registrar who told me and my tutors I wasn't having a migraine, I was having a panic attack, and if I took some deep breaths it would all go away. His diagnosis was based mainly on the fact that I was getting pins and needles, ( I'm no doctor but the fact it was unilateral seems to disprove this diagnosis?) The only thing I can say is that although I still suffer from migraines, I rarely now get the weakness or pins and needles. I am now 36 so maybe (you can hope) your husbands migraines may change too. A good gp is a Godsend. Even though I am under a neurologist, having a gp who knows I only go back to her when I really can't cope, and even though she can't give me a tablet that makes everything alright, always looks at me there and then and does as much as she can to help. Through her i have tried lots of treatments, and found one that, although it hasn't stopped them, i do feel better for taking it. I don't know the situation with your husband, but I resisted for years taking daily medication, not wanting to give into it. But I got to a breaking point that just made me accept it. I suffer from them. Current medicine doesn't fully understand them, and so doctors have different opinions on them, and although none that I've seen have ever said it outright to me, on many occasions I have been left feeling like they thought I was making it up. At times it has even made me question myself. Almost wishing one of the scans showed something (and how mad is that!!!) But It is just a part of me I have had to learn to accept. From personal experience, and not medical knowledge, I'd say to you and your husband, go to your gp, try all of the different medicines, and hopefully you will find one that helps, it may not stop them, but make them less severe or frightening. I've been trying different treatments since I was 18, and had scans and tests, and it's only in the last 2 years that I've found something that helps. And don't give up, or stop trying things. Medicine isn't the be all and end all. Ultimately it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, it's your husbands body. And if medicine can't help then it's up to you and your husband to try to work out ways to make things better. But even if things don't improve, the most important thing is that he's got you. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you. The worry you must have. But when a migraine starts, and the fear starts inside me, the thing that helps me the most, is my partner just knowing. Someone who knows where I am, understands how much they frighten me, and is always there for me. And always remember you're not on your own, the 2 of you. You're not the only ones battling through it. I wish there was some wonder advice or treatment I could tell you about, but I hope in some way, knowing there are people who understand what you are both going through helps a little bit. Good luck, and maybe 2014 is the year things start getting better! xxx Reply
mbu, Community Member
4/27/14 1:55pm

Hello KK,

I suffered from migraines in my early years. I am now 59.  Four years ago I began having "stroke like" siezures. Although I have rarely suffered a migraine for about 25 years, three neurologists diagnosed "migralepsy" even though I no longer suffer from these debilitating headaches.

The symptoms are really awful and scary, as you wrote. In fact, I feel terrified when one begins. I can feel an attack coming on which then deteriorates to facial paralysis, facial muscle distortion, drooping eyelid, slurring of speech, disorientation, tingling through my body and many more symptoms. My MRI's and other tests have been clear throughout apart from spots of white matter and possible microvascular disease.

All along, I've felt as if I were being treated like an "hysterical housewife" so I can toatally sympathise with your frustration! Last week, after this diagnosis of five years, one neurologist has now diagnosed my condition as Conversion Disorder (which in the old days would have been called Hysteria!

Needless to say I am furious at the attitude of the medical profession and I know they do not have the right answer.  I have always felt that my condition was somehow TIA related but they don't take me seriously. 

I do hope that you eventually find someone who will truly listen and believe you!

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By KK, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/23/14, First Published: 02/21/13