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An Almost Jargon Free Introduction to Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine

Updated on June 5, 2018
Pip Stone profile image

A diagnosis of Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM) in 2017, led to Pip write on the debilitating condition & living with the rare disorder.


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
  • dizziness
  • speech difficulties
  • drowsiness
  • loss of movement control such as twitching/jerking of an arm/leg
  • confusion
  • 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.

Triggers include;

  • dehydration
  • 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
  • MSG
  • 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
  • stress
  • 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.

There is currently no cure for Hemiplegic Migraine.
There is currently no cure for Hemiplegic Migraine. | Source

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.

Please take a moment to answer a quick survey.

Do you (or someone you know) suffer from HM or other forms of migraine?

See results

© 2018 Pip Stone


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    • Pip Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Pip Stone 

      20 months ago from Gunaikurnai Country, Victoria, Australia

      Hi, Melanie. Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you found it informative. At the risk of jinxing myself, I have been travelling nicely (for me) for a couple of weeks.

      All the best, Pip.

    • MJarts profile image

      Melanie Johnson 

      20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      You may not have shared it to garner sympathy, but there it is--i'm sorry you've to go through this. And to be quite honest, it's a very informative piece, thanks.

    • Pip Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Pip Stone 

      24 months ago from Gunaikurnai Country, Victoria, Australia

      Hi, RTalloni.

      Thank you. Having SHM is like anything else - you just have to work out how best to live with it. I hope that others will find it as interesting and educational as you have.

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      First, so sorry you must deal with the symptoms of this disorder. I'm so glad you have your mother and friends as support. That said, it's a great thing that you are able to communicate about it so clearly. This post teaches about something most of us would never learn about otherwise. One never knows when they will need to understand something like this for a family member or a friend if not for ones self.

    • Pip Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Pip Stone 

      24 months ago from Gunaikurnai Country, Victoria, Australia

      Thank you for your kind thoughts, Linda. I am glad that you could connect to the article. I hope your relative finds some relief for their migraines, as well.


    • Pip Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Pip Stone 

      24 months ago from Gunaikurnai Country, Victoria, Australia

      Thank you, Lady Penelope. I find that a nice cup of lemon and ginger tea does wonders for my migraines.

      Knowing your fondness for a hot bevvy, I am sure you will try it.


    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have a relative who has a bad time with migraines, but they aren't the hemiplegic type. I'm so sorry that you have this disorder. I wish there were better treatments for all types of migraines. Thank you for sharing a very educational article.

    • LadyPenelope profile image

      Lady Penelope Piddleworthy 

      2 years ago from Piddleton Hall, Piddleshire, The Disunited Kingdom

      How awful for you my dear, thank you for sharing this.

      I shall be sure to have all my servants checked for the simplest of signs.

      Dear, sweet, thing I hope that you do find some relief. x


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