An Almost Jargon Free Introduction to Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine
The following article is to be used for general information purposes only.
It is not intended to be - nor should it be - taken as medical advice.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition, please consult a medical professional.
Types of Hemiplegic Migraine
There are two major types of hemiplegic migraines;
- familial (FHM) affects at least two close members of the same family
- sporadic (SHM) sufferers have no family history
Each form of HM is then further broken down into right or left sided, depending on the side of the head the migraines occur. This is the opposite side of the weakness/paralysis.
I have migraines on the left side of my head which causes paralysis on the right side of my body. As I am the first (known) person in the family to suffer from HM, I have right sided Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine.
Sporadic Hemi What?
The name hemiplegia comes from the Greek hemi meaning half and plegia meaning paralysis.
SHM can be hard to diagnose, as many symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine imitate common stroke symptoms, including;
- numbness and/or drooping on one side of the face
- muscle weakness in the arm and/or leg on one side of the body
- complete paralysis of the arm and/or leg on one side of the body
- loss of coordination and/or balance
- speech difficulties
- loss of movement control such as twitching/jerking of an arm/leg
- memory loss (in more extreme cases)
- double or blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
- sensitivity to noise (I personally suffer from sensitivity to movement during an episode)
These symptoms occur prior to the onset of a migraine itself. Hemiplegic migraines can last from minutes to days. Repeated episodes can cause residual effects.
Symptoms ≠ Triggers
It is important to distinguish the difference between symptoms of SHM and triggers.
A symptom is what happens before or during a hempiglegic migraine.
A trigger is what causes a hemiplegic migraine.
- lack of sleep
- excessive sleep
- skipping, delaying or inadequate meals
- caffeine withdrawl
- too much caffeine
- citrus, chocolate, aged/pickled foods (cheeses, smallgoods, etc.)
- beer, red wines, spirits
- loud sounds
- over use of computers/televisions
- changes in the weather (many sufferers dread thunder storms)
- bright/flickering lights
- bright sunlight
- strong smells like perfume, petrol, cigarette smoke, some food odours
- air travel
- high altitudes
- the common cold/viral infections
- excessive phyiscal activities such as exercise
- emotional triggers such as arguments, excitement
Hemiplegic Migraine - English Dictionary*
Now we get to the most common terms sufferers of any form of HM know and hate.
What is that? No, I promised you an almost jargon-free article.
- Allodynia - Pain resulting from a stimulus that does not normally cause pain.
- Aphasia - Loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage.
- Anomia - A form of aphasia in which the patient is unable to recall the names of everyday objects.
- Ataxia - The loss of full control of bodily movements.
- Aura - A warning sensation experienced before an attack of epilepsy or a migraine.
- Diplopia - Technical term for double vision.
- Dysphasia - Language disorder marked by deficiency in the generation of speech, and sometimes also in its comprehension, due to brain disease or damage.
- Hemiparesis - another term for hemiplegia.
- Photophobia - Extreme sensitivity to light.
- Vertigo - A sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve [controls balance]; giddiness.
That was not too painful, was it? You read these descriptions. I live them.
Someone I Love Needs A Cure
At the time of writing this article, there is no known cure for Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine.
Nor does there appear to be an agreed upon cause, other than the mechanics of the condition.
The neurologist at the hospital I was rushed to by ambulance following an episode at work, told me that SHM can stem from developmental stress in utero. That would certainly make sense in my case, but that is for another article.
My current neurologist at a headache and migraine clinic I attend agrees - in part.
However, the first to treat my SHM, renowned Australian neurologist, Professor Graeme Jackson, held a different view.
Treatment & Management of SHM
While we cannot cure it, SHM can be managed and the symptoms treated.
There are various prescription medications, complimentary treatments, and lifestyle changes that can be used to manage day to day living with this dibilitating condition.
Ensuring that you have enough sleep, eat regular meals and avoid certain foodstuffs, and other triggers. Of course, we cannot manage the weather - yet!
It is essential that you have a GP who is willing to share your journey with you, and will listen to you. Neurologists and headache clinics are manna to sufferers of SHM.
Meditation, massage, and physiotherapy are all wonderful tools for managing your condition.
For myself, I find that the best tool for managing SHM is having a mother and close friends who understand that while I might not look as though there is anything wrong, I am far from fine.
Remember - Simply because Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine is classed as a disabilty, it does not take away your ability to educate others and share your story.
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Do you (or someone you know) suffer from HM or other forms of migraine?
© 2018 Pip Stone