Migraine and Stroke: What You Need to Know

This month the National Stroke Association is sharing information about migraine and stroke, including an article from the Better Health Channel on how to tell the difference between the two.

I had mild migraines (with aura) for 20 years, which I dismissed as a mere annoyance. Until I had a stroke at 48, and learned (too late) that migraines are a symptom of the clotting disorder antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which was the cause of my stroke.

“Migraine and stroke have many symptoms in common,” says Tina Pohlman of the APS Foundation of America, “but there are also important differences.”

People need to know the difference between migraine and stroke. They also need to know that people who have migraines with aura have a much higher risk of stroke.

Recent research shows that migraine is an important risk factor for stroke.  Women who suffer from migraines with aura (visual disturbances such as flashing dots or blind spots) can be four or five times more likely to suffer a stroke.

But, according to Steven J. Kittner, M.D., director of the Maryland Stroke Center, “risk factors are cumulative.”

For example, women who take even a low-estrogen birth control pill are twice as likely to have a stroke than those who don’t. If they also suffer from migraines, their risk of stroke catapults to eight or ten times normal. That is exactly what happened to me.

For people who have high blood pressure or diabetes (which thankfully I did not) the risks are even higher. I’d call them astronomical, but that’s just me, looking at stroke risks from the other side, knowing that, if I’d known more, my stroke might have been prevented.

Here’s more on the link between migraine and stroke, from MSNBC.