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Migraine, a severe headache in some part of the head, is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and acute sensitivity to light. In extreme cases, the migraine results in weakness in half of the body lasting for hours, days or sometimes for weeks.

This kind of migraine is referred to as familial hemiplegic migraine, which commonly occurs in an individual during childhood and adolescence.

This condition can have severe consequences if not treated in time, so it’s important to understand more about it. Read more to find out more about this affliction and the best ways to cope with and treat it.

Understanding a Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

This terrible disease is hard to control and requires early diagnoses and proper treatment to lessen its fatal effects among patients. If not cured on time, it may result in permanent paralysis in an individual.

A familial hemiplegic migraine, unlike the common migraine, is a very rare disease occurring in around 0.01% population in a state. It has been established through research that women are more likely to be affected by this disease when compared to men; approximately three times more than their male counterparts.

This illness is mainly caused due to abnormal gene mutations among individuals. This is the very reason that this type of migraine tends to occur in individuals during their early years.

Symptoms and Signs

This type of migraine can be diagnosed in the patients due to the following vivid symptoms. These usually develop along with an aura or neurological malfunctioning before the headache:

  • Temporary visual disturbances including double vision, blind spots, emerging of zigzag patterns in front of the eyes and flashes of bright light before eyes
  • Difficulty in speech involving stammering and weakness in right side of the tongue
  • Sensory loss such as paralysis in any body part or numbness of the face
  • Drowsiness, fatigue and dizziness
  • Frequent migraine episodes accompanied by severe fever, fatal weakness and seizures
  • Memory loss and difficulty in keeping attention to a particular issue
  • Difficulty in movements (ataxia)
  • Involuntary eye movements (nystagmus)
  • EEG abnormality
  • Permanent impairment of organs in severe cases

All these signs and symptoms can last for few hours, few days or few weeks depending on their intensity. However, permanent damage to body parts leading to death of the patient is extremely rare.

Subtypes 

It can be quite difficult to understand all of the complex genetic factors that go into diagnoses a disease. However, it’s interesting to get an insight into what geneticists have discovered.

A genetic disease like a familial hemiplegic migraine is caused due to the abnormal gene mutations in a body and comprises of different subtypes(1) described below:

  • 1 (CACNA1A) is a subtype of the disease caused by mutations in a P/Q-type calcium channel with alpha-subunit gene code resulting in degeneration of the cerebellum. Approximately 50% of the patients suffering from a familial hemiplegic migraine have this disease.
  • 2 (ATP1A2) is a subtype of the disease caused by the mutations in sodium and potassium ATPase gene code. Less than 25% of patients suffer from this particular type of disease.
  • 3 (SCN1A) is a rare subtype caused by the mutations in a sodium channel having alpha-subunit gene code.
  • 4 (1q31) is a subtype of the migraine caused by certain genes in the body whose mutation kinds are still unknown to the doctors and researchers.

Treatment Techniques

Once diagnosed, a familial hemiplegic migraine treatment plan is adopted by following methods, ways and techniques as prescribed by doctors and therapists:

  • If the illness is at the initial stages, the disease can be treated following certain precautionary measures including regular exercise and a balanced diet
  • In case of mild illness, the patients can be treated by controlling the symptoms of the sickness through drugs and medicines like oral verapamil, lamotrigine and acetazolamide
  • In a case where the attacks and impairments are frequent and acute, prophylactic management technique is adopted by the therapists to cure a familial hemiplegic migraine

Conclusion

This horrific migraine is a severe and acute form of migraine occurring due to irregular gene mutations in an individual. This terrible and painful disease is curable if diagnosed in the early stages. However, as time progresses, the apparently mild symptoms and signs of this disease begin to get more severe and can be fatal.

Though death is extremely rare with this disease, it’s important to note that the crippling-like symptoms caused in this disease can lead to permanent disability or paralysis.

Therefore, it is advisable to diagnose a familial hemiplegic migraine as early as possible and treat it properly to reduce the chance of permanent damage.

If you feel you or someone you know/care about are/is the victim of mild form of headache, weakness, visual/hearing impairment or memory retardation, consult a therapist immediately to avoid the spread of these symptoms before it becomes too late.

Read information about an Optical Migraine

(1) https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/2638/familial-hemiplegic-migraine-type-1