Dec 15, 2010

My Mom: Migraine or Stroke?

My mother is nothing like me - she's healthy and active, absolutely full of life (at age 70, she is averaging about 7,000 steps a day on her pedometer!), so it was unusual to get an emergency phone call regarding her health.

It started with her having a terrible headache behind her eye. Next came a feeling of extreme heat followed by difficulty speaking (she thought that she was making sense, but what came out of her mouth were just random words). Aphasia.

My first thought was stroke, so we rushed her to the hospital for evaluation. As I took her into the waiting room, I noticed that she was making sense...sort of...but using strange words and trailing off mid-sentence, forgetting what she had just been telling me.

Fortunately, a CT scan showed no signs of stroke. Unfortunately, there was no way to fully rule out a TIA (also known as mini-stroke).

Here's where it gets weird: my mother has a history of hemiplegic migraines that began about two years ago. These strange migraines look almost identical to a stroke. During the migraine, she loses feeling and control over half her body.

The first few times it happened, even the ER physicians thought she was having TIAs; but after a neurologist confirmed that it was an atypical presentation of migraine, we all got used to it and quit worrying when symptoms came over her.

This time was different, there was no aura, no numbness, no loss of control over one side of her body - only pain and aphasia.

We are waiting on another consult to re-evaluate, but at the moment, my money is on migraine.

Bizarre symptom of rare disorder? Maybe my mother and I are more alike than I thought.


  1. So sorry to hear this about your mom!


  2. I hope everything's ok with your mom. That presentation kind of reminds me of how my mom presented with her head problems 8 years ago, except the migraine part. She is still angry that her ophthalmologist told her to stop rubbing her eye. Does your mom have a neurologist?

  3. I'm sorry to hear that your mother has had so many problems. I'm glad to hear that someone was able to intervene and help her.

    My mother saw a different neurologist this time, he runs the stroke/TIA clinic in our city. He said he doesn't believe that she had migraines and that she has been having TIAs all along.

    She did get a second opinion after the first time when she was diagnosed with migraines. The second specialist was even more confident than the first that it was migraine. Who knows?

    For now she is on coumadin, here's hoping for the best.

  4. Oh wow. I hope your mom is doing well.