Hemiplegic Migraine


Hemiplegic migraine attacks are a highly uncommon subtype of migraines with aura and can be broken down into two variations: Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) and Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM). FHM and SHM share the same symptoms, which can vary among different Migraineurs with the difference between the two being that FHM can be traced back to family history and mutations of specific genes.

Though few people ever experience one of these migraine episodes, those who do typically suffer from a severely debilitating migraine symptom that can last for several days. For hemiplegic migraineurs, it is the aura phase that is so incapacitating. The term hemiplegic itself refers to paralysis on only half of the body. Hemiplegic Migraines can be broken down


Symptoms of FHM and SHM:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Prolonged aura
  • Paralysis on one side of the body)
  • Fever
  • Symptoms of meningitis without the actual illness
  • Confusion
  • Coma

*Loss of muscle coordination

  • Phonophobia
  • Photophobia


If you experience any symptoms that resemble a hemiplegic migraine, it’s recommended to see your doctor for a full evaluation. This is a serious form of migraines and many of its symptoms are also signs of a possible stroke. Tests to look for signs of a stroke may include a CT scan or head MRI. An exam may also include tests of the heart and blood vessels in your neck. These will evaluate whether your symptoms may be caused by blood clots forming in the heart or blood vessels in the neck.

Genetic testing is available for hemiplegic migraines. If you have a family member with similar symptoms, you may be diagnosed with “familial” hemiplegic migraines. That means it runs in your family, and you most likely could pass it on to your children. If you don’t test positive, your condition is referred to as a sporadic hemiplegic migraine.


The complexities of FHM and SHM make them difficult for doctors to treat. Because hemiplegic migraines are simply an expression of an underlying neurological disorder, researchers are tasked with learning how to not only reduce migraine frequency but also to manage the severe symptoms of hemiplegic migraines. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antiemetics, and narcotic analgesics are most frequently used for pain relief, and calcium channel blockers are used to prevent hemiplegic migraine episodes.

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