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Do These Complicated Migraine Symptoms Scare You?

Written and verified by Holly Hazen

Migraines are a chronic problem and complicated migraine symptoms can often be worse than the pain phase itself. One of the problems with diagnosing these symptoms is that they often mimic other serious medical problems. So, you get tested for a brain tumour, stroke and MS (multiple sclerosis) to rule them out.

They can definitely be scary and debilitating.

Complicated Migraine Symptoms To Watch For @migrainesavvy #migrainerelief #stopmigraines #migrainesareafulltimejobComplicated migraine symptoms can be worse than the pain phase.

This makes it difficult for doctors and for us as patients.

If you have these debilitating symptoms, then I suggest becoming familiar with your own early warning signals, and some of the more serious signs below.

I used to hate those subtle sensations because I knew what was in store. That was until a hairdresser said...

"how lucky are you to have an early warning like that!"

I was just starting to panic and tell her that I was triggered by the perfumed shampoo she was using. I could feel my heart rate increase and my breathing (and sheer panic arise) when I thought... hang on a minute, she's right. I can use this to help.

Now I am thankful for that inner awareness... that subtle clue and I can take immediate action to stop the attack from escalating.

Your family can also help you notice warning signs of an impending migraine.

Things like: insomnia, food cravings, unexplained mood swings, or temper tantrums and irritability. That’s where the family comes in. They can let you know when they see the shift.

If you experience unexplained anger before an attack, reading Taboo Symptoms of Migraine: Anger might help you recognize it as a warning sign and start treating it as a symptom too. 

Complicated Migraine Symptoms To Be Alarmed About

Aneurysms can be dismissed as severe migraines. If an aneurysm is ruptured and leaking it can produce a headache like nothing you’ve experienced before. It’s difficult to tell the difference between this and intensely disabling complicated migraine symptoms. 

Don’t go rushing off to the hospital... but if your regular routine and abortives are not helping, it could be something else... like an aneurysm. 

I don’t want to scare you… but this is a reality. So let’s look at some more details to clear things up…

Approximately 15 percent of people that have migraines suffer from migraines with aura. These migraines used to be called classic, classical migraine or complicated migraine.

Now complicated migraine is more a descriptive term. The International Headache Society started categorizing headaches into different groups by their characteristics.

Complicated Migraine Symptoms @migrainesavvy #migrainerelief #stopmigraines #migrainesareafulltimejobWith Complicated Migraine Symptoms You Might Need A Teddy Bear

The other 85 percent of migraineurs have migraine without aura. But there is also a small percentage that has characteristics unlike these two categories.

These people have the more scary complicated migraine symptoms.

I find symptoms like paralysis, or difficulty using one side of the body or difficulty forming a sentence and talking... very scary.

I don't get the paralysis often, thank goodness, but I do get the speech and cognition problems regularly. 

These are the symptoms that can often be misdiagnosed as stroke symptoms.

With the more complicated migraines and symptoms comes greater risk of a stroke. These types of symptoms might need to be treated independently from the migraine headache pain phase.

Here are a few stroke symptoms... you will see how similar they are to your migraine attacks. The point of difference is that they are all SUDDEN:

  • numbness, weakness, or tingling only on one side of your body;
  • paralysis in your face, arm, or leg, on one side of your body;
  • changes in your vision;
  • difficulty forming words;
  • trouble understanding simple statements.

Click here to read my full article on migraine stroke symptoms to help you identify the differences. 

If you experience any of these symptoms with a migraine, go to your physician and get checked out immediately.

If you get these more complicated migraines, you might also find that your symptoms can vary from migraine to migraine. You might get symptoms before, during and after the pain phase, or only in one phase. No two migraine sufferers get the exact same symptoms , so just be aware that your patterns and symptoms can vary.

Hemiplegic Migraine Symptoms

This complicated migraine affects half of the body. The affected half becomes weak during the headache phase. If you suffer from hemiplegic migraine, you will usually have a family history of this exact type of migraine.

Symptoms of hemiplegic migraine can include:

  • Weakness on one side of your body - including your face, arm, and leg.
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected side of your face or limb.
  • Flashes of light, double vision, or other visual disturbances (aura)
  • Trouble speaking or slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of coordination. [1]

You see... similar. Your unique combination of symptoms can last from a few hours to a few days. But, the memory loss with this type of migraine can sometimes continue for months. [1]

Basilar Migraine Symptoms

Migraines are often described as starting on one side of the head and then gradually spreading and intensifying to the headache or pain phase. This migraine, also called basilar artery migraine, may or may not be accompanied by a headache.

The problem with this type of migraine is the severe dizziness and balance problems that accompany it. Fainting can be common. You might experience both nausea and vomiting which makes your episode very disabling. [2]

With basilar artery migraines, you may have any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Temporary blindness
  • Loss of balance
  • Confusion
  • Hearing impairments
  • Body tingling
  • Loss of consciousness

Each aura symptom can last between five and 60 minutes. In some cases at least one aura will develop gradually over five minutes, and then different auras will occur in succession over five minutes. [2]

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Ophthalmoplegic Migraine Symptoms

Ophthalmoplegic migraine, also known as ocular migraine, is a rare type of migraine headache where the focal point of pain is in and around the eyes.

With this attack, your eyelid will droop and you can't move your eye from one side to the other. The entire episode is typically very brief, and is normally accompanied by intense eye pain.

"The headache is accompanied by temporary eye muscle weakness or paralysis, which may persist for days to weeks after resolution of the headache. The first occurrence of ophthalmoplegic migraine typically takes place during childhood. Intermittent attacks may persist into adulthood." [3]

Symptoms are:

  • Severe headache in the eye region
  • Eyelid and pupil changes
  • Eye position and vision problems [3]

I've written more about ocular migraines here - Top Tips To Deal With Ocular Migraines.

Retinal Migraine Symptoms

A retinal migraine, or ocular migraine, is a rare form of migraine. 

You'd experience "repeated bouts of short–lasting, diminished vision or blindness in one eye. These bouts of diminished vision or blindness may precede or accompany a headache and nausea." [4]

So, this headache causes the very sudden vision loss in one eye and is accompanied by a headache. This typically lasts about an hour.

So, symptoms to watch for are:

  • Vision loss
  • Partial vision loss
  • Headaches

What To Watch For With Hypnic Headache

Hypnic headache syndrome is rare. It usually strikes people over the age of 50, but it can affect people from 40 years old to 80.

It occurs at the same time every night and lasts about fifteen minutes to one hour. If you wake up between 1 and 3 am every night... this might be your diagnosis.

The typical headache medication is not effective, but caffeine can be effective for the pain... but it might keep you awake ALL night.

Here are some things to watch for:

  • Unilateral pain (on one side of the head) or can be bilateral (on both sides of the head).
  • Throbbing pain, although not everyone experiences this.
  • The pain begins abruptly and can last from 15 minutes to 6 hours, although typically it is about 30-60 minutes. [5]

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Complicated Migraine Symptoms You Can Watch For @migrainesavvy #migrainerelief #stopmigraines #migrainesComplicated Migraine Symptoms You Can Watch For

Complicated Migraine Symptoms - What You Can Do Now

Now you see why complicated migraine symptoms can be hard to diagnosis and why they could scare you.

If you have any symptoms out of the 'norm', seek medical diagnosis and advice asap.

Watch for your early warning signs:

  • insomnia,
  • unexplained fatigue,
  • food cravings,
  • unexplained mood changes, and sudden irritability.

Become familiar with your early warning signs and symptoms, and tell your friends and family what to watch for so they can help you prepare for the impending attack.

4 Practical Ways To Relieve Your Symptoms

Once you have been to your doctor, and you have been diagnosed with migraine. S/he will go over some treatment options.

For these complicated migraine symptoms, medication is normally part of the treatment. And will be one of the first things you do at your earliest warning signal.

So after you take your meds, or a natural supplement that works try this:

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How to be more migraine savvy right now...

Complicated Migraine Symptoms References:
1. Watson, S. (2017) What Is Hemiplegic Migraine? Available [online] at:
2. WebMD (2018) Migraines & Headaches Guide. Available [online] at:
3. St. John, T. MD (2017) Ophthalmoplegic Migraine Symptoms. Available [online] at:
4. Duggal, N. (2016) What is a Retinal Migraine? Available [online] at:
5. The Migraine Trust (2018) What is Hypnic Headache? Available [online] at: