What to Know About Hemiplegic Migraines and Bleach

by Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert Health Professional & Patient Advocate


Can Hemiplegic Migraines be caused by Chemical Exposure ? (specifically bleach or ammonia ). My wife has had 5 episodes simulating strokes in the last 10 months, but no health organization has been able to say 100% that she has had a stroke at all. Symptoms are usually in this order: 1. light-headedness 2. nausea 3. tingling in the left leg 4. blurred vision 5. sensitivity headache 6. tingling in the left arm 7. weakness in left arm and leg 8. pounding headache in both temple areas 9. exhaustion . in about 4 hours all symptoms usually subside except exhaustion. she is 38 years old. recently, we found a local heart doctor who feels strongly that she maybe having hemiplegic migraines. My wife has her own cleaning business and very recently we have finally noticed a pattern to these episodes. Every episode has occurred after she had breathing contact or skin contact with bleach and/or ammonia. One recent episode occurred within 3 minutes of removing a stain from a carpet by using ammonia mixed with dawn and a clothes iron. She steamed the spot on her hands and knees for about 45 seconds and WHAM, another episode. EKG's, MRA's, MRI's have all come back clean with no solid proof of a stroke. Any direction for help will be greatly appreciated. This doctor is not able to make a connection between chemicals and her episodes. Shannon.


Dear Shannon;

The short answer is that yes, exposure to such substances can trigger all types of Migraines. (They're triggers. The root cause of Migraine is genetics and overactive neurons in the brain that respond to triggers.)

I can see the enormity of this problem given your wife's business. Something she needs to be very careful about is not taking Migraine abortive medications or pain medications too frequently. When taken more than two or three days a week, they can cause the additional problem of medication overuse headaches, aka rebound. You can read Medication Overuse Headache: When the Remedy Backfires for more information on this.

Some people find that daily preventive medications will cut down on the number of Migraines they have. That may or may not work since she's continually exposed to these triggers.

Good luck,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

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.

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.

Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert
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Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert

Do you have questions about Migraine? Reader questions are answered by UCNS certified Migraine and headache specialist Dr. David Watson, and award-winning patient educator and advocate Teri Robert.