Some of our readers have asked if a migraine attack can trigger a seizure. The short answer is, “Yes,” but it’s not that simple." This brings us to a group of what the International Headache Society calls “complications of migraine” in the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (ICHD-3). The ICHD-3 is the “gold standard” for diagnosing and classifying migraine and other headache disorders, allowing everyone to “stay on the same page” and lessening confusion.
From the ICHD-3:
1.4.4 Migraine aura-triggered seizure
A seizure triggered by an attack of migraine with aura.
- A seizure fulfilling diagnostic criteria for one type of epileptic attack, and criterion B below.
- Occurring in a patient with 1.2 Migraine with aura, and during, or within 1 hour after, an attack of migraine with aura.
- Not better accounted for by another diagnosis.
Migraine and epilepsy are prototypical examples of paroxysmal brain disorders. Although migraine-like headaches are quite frequently seen in the epileptic postictal period, sometimes a seizure occurs during or following a migraine attack. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as migralepsy, is a rare event, originally described in patients with 1.2 Migraine with aura. Evidence for association with 1.1 Migraine without aura is still lacking.
As you can see from the ICHD-3 information, a migraine aura-triggered seizure, aka migralepsy, is rare, but real. That make it vitally important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you’ve had this type of seizure. In fact, unless you’re diagnosed with a seizure disorder, you should see your doctor immediately if you think you’ve experienced any type of seizure.
Migraine aura-triggered seizures are another example of symptoms that can be migraine or something else entirely. They can be frightening, especially the first time. If you think you’re experiencing this type of seizure or any type of seizure, call your doctor, and keep someone with you until you’ve seen your doctor.
More information related to migraine with aura:
Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society. “The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition.” Cephalalgia. July 2013 vol. 33 no. 9 629-808. 10.1177/0333102413485658.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.