Is it a Migraine or Stroke?
Now comes the fun part. Attempting to decipher your symptoms! As most of us are aware, migraine and stroke symptoms are annoyingly similar. With typical migraine symptoms consisting of:
- Numbness or weakness – typically on one side of your body
- Extreme head pain
- Trouble speaking or expressing coherent thoughts
And typical stroke symptoms consisting of:
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
- Severe headache that comes on for no reason
- Trouble speaking
Look at that! 6 for 6!
It’s because of these commonalities that it’s important to know your migraine warning signs and to take action if something seems abnormal. As previously stated, my migraines generally consist of numbness, nausea and vomiting, head pain, auras and deliriousness. So, when I experienced several of those symptoms but had difficulties focusing my eyes instead of my typical auras, I knew something wasn’t right.
The Aftermath of a Stroke
For the most part, I was fortunate enough to fully recover from my ‘mini stroke,' though five years later I still occasionally find myself stumbling over words or losing my train of thought – both things that anyone who knew me previous to this event would tell you are completely out of character. But, I was lucky. 25% of people fully recover after a stroke and 50% of people will have a disability. Some of these disabilities include:
- Inability to use your arms or walk. This is usually because of paralysis on one side of the body.
- Inability to speak, read or write. You may also not be able to understand what someone else is saying.
- Inability to think clearly. You may even act differently than you did prior to the stroke.
- Inability to feel. You may not be able to feel when someone touches an affected part of the body.
- In rare situations, sight or hearing may also be affected.
If you are a young woman who suffers from migraines with aura and you are taking an oral contraceptive, know that your risk of stroke is increased. If you have a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke, your risk of stroke is further increased.
While you can’t necessarily put an end to your migraines, finding an alternative to oral contraceptives may be a place to start. While non-hormonal birth control options are a bit more challenging to find, they are out there.
Diaphragms, male and female condoms, Paraguard IUD (which utilizes copper as opposed to the hormonal version, Mirena), contraceptive sponges, Lea contraceptive, cervical caps, spermicide, and in more extreme measures, tubal litigation or vasectomy are all non-hormonal forms of birth control (though it’s important to note that these don’t all decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections).
Beyond that, some additional ways to decrease your risk of stroke with migraine include:
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Minimizing alcohol intake
- Taking a baby aspirin
- Quitting smoking (or never starting)
Unfortunately for those of us who do suffer from migraines, our chances of stroke are significantly higher than those who do not suffer from migraines. While there isn’t a universal ‘fix’ to control or stop our migraines (I wish!), we can take precautions and work to prevent stroke in the areas of our lives that we do have some control over.
Are you a migraine sufferer who has experienced a stroke? We would love to hear your story. You can submit it by filling out the form here.