What is Migraines and Strokes? Cause and Similarity

The risk of stroke is about twice as likely for migraine sufferers than it is for people who do not get migraines, but those with headaches should remember that the overall risk of stroke remains low. Not all people who experience migraines have a stroke.  The link between migraine and stroke risk is unknown. Although one explanation could relate to a decrease blood flow to the brain seen with migraines, which is also a factor when artery blockages cut off blood to the brain resulting in a stroke.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a type of headache, caused by spasms of the arteries leading into the head.  An intense throbbing pain often on one side of the head typically characterizes it. Some migraine sufferers also experience auras, which can include one of more of haloes, flashing or floating lights, lightning bolts, photophobia, scotomas, blurred vision or eye pain.  

Sometimes the sufferer also experiences weakness, language problems or other neurological disorders.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a condition produced by a blood clot that lodges in an artery and blocks the blood flow to a portion of the brain, producing symptoms ranging from paralysis of limbs and loss of speech to unconsciousness and death. The part of the brain deprived of blood dies and can no longer function.

Migraine and stroke similarities

Migraines with aura and strokes can have similar symptoms.  A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a minor stroke that is a powerful warning that a severe stroke may follow. Problems may occur if a TIA is mistaken for a migraine as they have similar symptoms such as for example: speech disturbances, weakness and problems with vision.  The symptoms of a TIA are the same as for a full stroke but last less than 24 hours.  Since the symptoms of TIAs go away within hours, the person may mistakenly believe they suffered nothing more than a migraine.

If you are having a migraine that is worst than any other you have ever had it is important to seek immediate medical care. Extreme head pain can be a symptom of a stroke. Other symptoms that warrant immediate medical care are numbness or paralysis that you have not experienced with a migraine before, losing consciousness during a migraine and severe, unremitting migraine for more than 72 hours.

The risk is highest among young women with migraine with aura who smoke and use contraceptives that contain estrogen.  Other risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Those who suffer from migraines should not panic, but as with any disease, the risks that a migraine presents need to be known so that the proper actions can be taken to avoid complications.


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