Stroke-Like Migraine Symptoms

Some migranes require hospital visits.
Some migranes require hospital visits. (Image: Image by, courtesy of H John)

Some types of migraines mimic many of the same symptoms of a stroke or "mini-stroke" (transient ischemic attack or TIA). But other types of migraines may produce symptoms that the American Heart Association would call a stroke. These symptoms also experienced by people with migraines include problems in the eyes and with balance and numbness.


One migraine symptom is pain on one side of the head, often behind the eye. Another symptom in many types of migraines is the eyelid on the painful side of the face drooping and making it difficult to see out of one or both eyes. People suffering from strokes or TIA may also get a one-sided headache behind the eye, have one eyelid that droops and experience vision problems.


Migraine sufferers often have problems with dizziness, which can contribute to nausea. "Migraines For Dummies" notes that people with vestibular migraines often become dizzy or feel as if the room is spinning around them. This sensation may often be worse than the head pain. The patient may have difficulty speaking because of loss of coordination of the mouth.

Time Frame

With both migraine attacks and strokes, it can feel as if the symptoms happen for no immediately identifiable reason. The symptoms often appear with a sudden intensity instead of gradually getting worse. The symptoms can take hours or days to go away in a migraine but can take considerably less time with a stroke. A patient suffering from a TIA may have her symptoms go away in less than an hour. The patient still needs to be hospitalized because she is prone to having another TIA or full-blown stroke in 24 hours.


Types of migraines that most strongly mimic a stroke are hemiplegic migraines, vestibular migraines and basilar artery migraines (BAM). These three types not only have head pain, but also often include problems with vision, balance and nausea. MAGNUM--the National Migraine Association--notes that hemiplegic migraine suffers often feel a numbness on an entire side of their bodies.


According to "Migraines For Dummies," anyone who experiences their first migraine over the age of 50 should immediately go to the hospital. The migraine symptoms could actually be a stroke, glaucoma, aneurysm or a complication from medical treatments, medication, a possible poisoning or complications from an old injury.

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