Hemiplegic Migraine – The Basics and Fast Facts

Disclaimer: The following information has been gathered from personal research and conversations with my personal specialists. The information in this blog post should not be taken as medical advice, and doctors should be consulted in each individual case. 

This blog post is jam-packed with information about hemiplegic migraine! Following their information put in my own words, I linked all the websites I utilized for research, and I added some links at the end for you to peruse to learn even more!


Hemiplegic migraine is a subset of complex migraine/migraine with aura. I’m about to hit you with a Russian nesting doll situation of statistics:

Hemiplegic Migraine: The Basics

12% of the population suffers from migraines. Migraines can be further classified into categories: migraine with aura and migraine without aura. 25-30% of migraine sufferers fall into the less prevalent “migraine with aura” category. That being said, those who experience migraine with aura may not always experience the aura sensations with each migrainous episode. (Source: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-and-aura/)

A rare and serious type of migraine with aura is called hemiplegic migraine (HM). What sets hemiplegic migraine apart from other migraine with aura episodes is the involvement of “motor symptoms” (weakness and numbness of one side of the body) that occurs with typical aura symptoms. Hemiplegic migraine can also be further broken down into two categories: Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) and Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM). The NIH states that a Denmark study declares sporadic hemiplegic migraine’s prevalence at 0.002% and familial hemiplegic migraine’s prevalence slightly higher at 0.003%. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513302/)

The difference between the two types of hemiplegic migraine is if HM is seen in other family members as well. FHM often has correlation to gene mutations, so generations can pass it down from parents to children. SHM is diagnosed when one person experiences the symptoms independently, as no family members have ever had such symptoms. I am a Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraineur myself. Migraines run in my family, but not hemiplegic.

Hemiplegic Migraine VS. Stroke – How Can You Tell? 

Hemiplegic migraine mimics the symptoms of a stroke — numbness and weakness on one side of the body [medical term for “one-sided” = unilateral], slurred speech, inability to speak/form words, muttering, using nonsensical words [medical term = aphasia], vision disturbances, severe headache, and loss of balance/incoordination [medical term = ataxia]. Because of this, it is important that you communicate with your doctor how to differentiate between what is a hemiplegic migraine and what is a stroke.

Typically speaking, hemiplegic migraine symptoms come on gradually and eventually resolve – stroke symptoms often don’t. For example, with HM, your fingers feel numb and you feel the numbness move up your arm. Eventually, you get the feeling back in your fingers as the numbness spreads to other parts of that side of the body. If you have vision changes, your vision soon gets restored. Further, these symptoms will have gradual onset. There is always a 10-15 minute break between my symptoms, they cumulatively occur over a one to two hour period, and they often don’t occur at the same time. The important thing to note, per my neurologist, is if all of these symptoms (including the splitting headache) come on all at once. This could signify stroke as it is atypical for such to occur in hemiplegic migraine due to symptoms’ gradual onset. If you suddenly feel one side of your body get weak and go numb with no sensation restoration and you feel this in connection to a sudden and severe headache with speech impairment, I suggest calling 911 immediately. Simple Quote Motivational Poster-2.jpg

As stated with my disclaimer above, my information in this post was accumulated from my personal research as well as through answers provided to me by my knowledgeable medical team. I do not claim to be an expert on hemiplegic migraine whatsoever. I do think that spreading information on HM can help those of us who have it and for our loved ones to better understand it entirely. That being said, I have linked awesome sources below for my readers to explore if you want even more information about hemiplegic migraine. Also, if you want more detailed storytelling of my hemiplegic migraine episodes, check out my blog post My Hemiplegic Migraine Episodes – Stroke’s Less Dangerous Twin.

As always, feel free to comment any questions or responses below!

More Information:

“Hemiplegic Migraine”; The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513302/

“Hemiplegic Migraine”; American Migraine Foundation – https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/hemiplegic-migraine/

“Understanding Migraine with Aura”; American Migraine Foundation – https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-aura/

“Hemiplegic Migraine”; Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) – https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/10768/hemiplegic-migraine

4 thoughts on “Hemiplegic Migraine – The Basics and Fast Facts

  1. I first suffered from this around the age of 12 , migraine runs in our family and although they thought I was odd when I couldn’t speak , pick things up … the lying down in a darkened room was pretty standard . I had an MRI in my late 20s after describing a very sudden onset which stayed with je in part for a few days , but I got the all clear and wS simply told we don’t know but it’s not typical migraine .
    I’m 54 now , and still occasionally get the start of numbness or severe visual disturbance along with a mind fog that makes speech tricky , but find that eating ( odd I know ) chocolate or / and cheese really helps and would get that over paracetamol first .
    I trigger when over tired and hungry , suffered quite badly through my first pregnancy , but got by on a lot of barley sugars .
    I havnt had the severe vertigo that you describe , but everything else . The inability to speak is tricky especially when I was trying to explain to my husband what was wrong one time 😂😂😂😂


    1. Thank you for your comment! I know the inability to speak while trying to communicate what’s wrong is a feat in itself! Spouses get good at deciphering! Haha
      I hate that it took docs that long to understand your disease. But even better – you know how to manage it! My big one is coffee and meds. I’m still learning what triggers them, and sleep is definitely one of them. On another note, it’s a beautiful feeling when we start to recognize what causes them and improves them. Feels like we are getting our control back, huh? Hugs to you!!


  2. I am a fellow HM warrior and appreciate your blog. I’m in process of setting mine up for similar reasons as to why you started. Thanks for all you do to help others understand our rare companion.


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