Migraine is a complex disease with a myriad possible symptoms, including hemiplegia. Some of these symptoms can be frightening; at the least, they’re frustrating.
The word hemiplegic comes from the medieval Greek hemi, which means half, and plegia, which means paralysis or cessation of motion. Thus, hemiplegia means one-sided paralysis.
When discussing migraine symptoms, it’s important to know that hemiplegia may occur in only one form of migraine - hemiplegic migraine. Hemiplegic migraine has two subforms: sporadic hemiplegic migraine (SHM) and familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM). FHM and SHM share symptoms, which will vary among different Migraineurs. The difference between the two is that FHM can be traced back in the family history and has been linked to mutations of specific genes, which are discussed more fully below. SHM is FHM without the familial connection and that particular genetic mutation.
Proper diagnosis and treatment are especially essential with this form of migraine. Imaging studies and other testing should be performed to rule out other causes of the symptoms. It’s important that people with hemiplegic migraine understand their migraines as well as possible and not panic when they occur. With continuing research, especially genetic research, more is being learned about hemiplegic migraine. As this research continues, living with hemiplegic migraine will become easier.
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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+.