Friday, October 31, 2014
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 jennifer l., Community Member, asks

Q: how to tell the difference between a TIA and a complex migraine

i am being investigated for what was at first called a stroke, later downgraded to a TIA.

i've suffered migraines for 15 years, but the last 10 years have been reduced to frequent ice picks.

i take indomethacin, neurontin and elavil on a daily preventive regimen.


the TIA was a breakthrough, scary event, and i've had several more attacks on a lesser scale.

i'm waiting to see my neurologist but wonder what the difference is between 'complex migraine' and stroke or TIA.


jennifer in western canada

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Answers (3)
Nancy Harris Bonk, Community Member
9/25/08 11:42am

Hi jennifer,


The term Complex Migraine is not an accurate diagosis. The International Headache Society(IHS) is the gold standard in diagnosing Migraine and headache disorders and doesn't have that listed in their index. IHS International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd Edition, does however have Migraine with aura (MWA) and Migraine without aura (MWOA). For information on MWA, click HERE and MWOA click HERE.  We have information on Ice Pick Headaches HERE.


The symptoms of Migraine and TIA can be similar so it's important to see a good doctor. Have you seen a Migraine specialist? Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? is a great article and will tell you why. Then you can find a specialist HERE.


Good luck


janicetaylor2004, Community Member
9/11/08 7:51pm

SmileHi Jennifer


I was diagnosed with TIA recently, (on my first trip to the ER), then on my second (not even a week later), they said maybe TIA, maybe migraine. Or...oh wait Undecided maybe it's stress, or Undecided maybe it's Vitamin B12 problem, or oh no wait I know I know....UndecidedFoot in mouth maybe you're "mental".


On my 3rd trip (3 days after getting out of the hospital from my 2nd visit), to the ER (I went to OSU Medical).  They admitted me with Stroke possible, but also check other things, after making sure that I had not had a stroke.  They said that I had "complicated migraine" - to be specific, Hemiplegic migraine.  They have the same symptoms as a stroke.  They gave me neurontin, and "knock on wood" I haven't had an episode since.SmileCool.


Hope this bit of info is of use to you.  Check with your neurologist.  Also wouldn't hurt to ask about getting checked for Sleep Apnea.  Better to be safe than sorry.


Keep me posted.  Have a super evening (worry and headache and episode free)Smile



sick of being sick, Community Member
10/ 3/11 1:15am

ITS JUST LIKE the tortoise and the hare. A TIA is the hare and the migraine is the tortoise. TIA is a happens fast and is over fast a migraine is a slow process.,, I have had a type of vertiginous migraine for years. I have a severe case and At its worst i exhibit stroke like symptoms. the first time scared the crap outta me and i went to the ER.when i asked the doctor why this occurs he said migraines affect the flow of blood to brain very similiar in some ways to a TIA. the blood flow to the brain is compromised. in some cases i was told patients with severe migraines are diagnosed with TIA when in fact it's just the normal symptoms of a bad migraine.(its even hard for doctors to distiguinsh the two) please note that migraine suffers have silent migraines..meaning even though you don't feel the pain of a headache the blood flow is still compromised and you can exhibit the stroke like symptoms. basically a headache sufferer almost always has a headache even if they aren't feeling it. generally TIAs are a quick abrupt onset that doesnt usually last more than 5-30 minutes then just as quick the symptoms are gone. ...a migraine is usually a much slower onset that lasts longer than 30 minutes. hope that helps.....



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By jennifer l., Community Member— Last Modified: 05/13/12, First Published: 09/10/08