Are you looking for information about symptoms that mimic strokes? Although I have a family history of strokes in my family, I learned the hard way that other illnesses can have similar symptoms. Despite the fact that I did not have a stroke, I did deal with the aftereffects of what my doctors vaguely called a migraine-related brain event (in extreme cases, it is called a Hemiplegic Migraine). As it turns out, people with a history of migraine may have a similar situation. No matter how extreme, these events can be extremely frightening.
What triggered my stroke-like symptoms
In 2007, I was extremely saddened to learn that my father had died from a stroke. The event was so stressful, because he died prematurely, that I had an extreme health reaction. At that time, I had been unable to work for several years because of an ongoing issue with chronic daily migraines. After I learned the news, I became extremely sick from what I thought was a stress-related migraine, but the aftereffects were much different from before. I had learned from previous experiences with the doctors that if my migraines were new or different, I should seek medical treatment immediately. In this case, I was exhibiting stroke-like symptoms, and went to the emergency room.
It is not a stroke when it feels like one?
At the hospital, I was both confused and relieved to find out that I did not have a stroke. Instead, the doctor said that it is common for people that suffer from migraines to have mild strokes, called TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attack or “mini-stroke”), or to suffer a stroke-like symptoms. The symptoms that brought me to the hospital were slurred speech, an inability to move my tongue correctly, paralysis of the left side of my body and a severe headache. The doctor said I was correct to assume that these symptoms were signs of a stroke, but when they did the CAT scan of my brain, I showed no blood clots or other stroke indicators.
Not as stroke, but symptoms are the same
Despite the fact that I was extremely lucky to not have had a stroke, I did have several months of recovery. For example, I had to crawl back and forth to the bathroom. I also could not talk correctly for several months. Afterward, I found out that there was some debate in the medical community about whether or not migraines cause brain changes. Over the years, I have lost most of my vision due to migraines, and I have watched my migraines cause issues with my balance, coordination, and nerve damage. Obviously, my opinion is that migraines do cause brain changes.
Could it be a future stroke?
As I grow older (I am 36), I have found that my hair turns grey only in the areas that I experience migraine pain. While the jury is still out concerning medical research on migraines with stroke-like symptoms, I feel based on personal experiences that this will change because these migraine types are dangerous, cause disability, and therefore should not be ignored. I definitely agree with newer research that says migraines cause brain changes. It is my hope that this type of recognition that migraines are warning signs will help chronic migraine sufferers with a history of stroke in their family find the preventative medicine they need.
Tip: Go to the ER if you have stroke-like symptoms with migraine
For now, my main piece of advice is to always go to the doctor or emergency room immediately if you have a migraine that has different symptoms from previous ones. Although I may not have had a stroke this time, if I had ignored the symptoms as just another migraine, I could have had irreversible damage to my health if it was in fact having a stroke. In my opinion, always err on the side of caution.