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Am I having a stroke?

I’ve had migraines since I was 6, and they’ve been chronic since age 30. (I’m now 60). Chronic meaning 3-7 days per week.

Yesterday I went to the ER because I thought I was having a stroke. Woke up with a headache, which suddenly got much worse. Took my meds, went to bed with an ice pack and guided imagery CD, slept off and on and got up in the afternoon to finally eat some cereal.

As I was eating, I realized that the right side of my face and tongue were partially numb….kind of felt like when the novocaine is wearing off after dental work. My head pain was completely gone, but the numbness continued to spread. As my husband was driving me to the ER, it got harder to swallow, numbness spread into the top part of my chest and into one finger, also on the right side.

The ER doc concluded that it was complex migraine. I’ve only had partial numbness twice before, and never as vast as this was. Today, I still have a little numbness in my tongue and throat.

The doc consulted with a neurologist and said that there are a couple ways to discern if it is a stroke: (1) the numbness would be more all-encompassing, making it hard to walk, or all my fingers instead of just one. (2) The numbness would not be transient.

I’m still trying to get in early to see my neurologist and nail this down a bit more, but that’s it for now. I’d love to hear from other folks with similar experiences.

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  • Leanne
    6 years ago

    At 7am on Monday 10/28/2013 I asked my daughter, “am I drooling”? as I felt like I was drooling. She said no. I went to work and conducted an 8am meeting. During the meeting I could see and feel my brain being scrambled. I could not find words, I was unable to make my brain think about what I was trying to do and say. I barely got through the meeting. Afterward I told a colleague I was not feeling well. I went to get my BP taken at my work place and found my entire right side was weak. My colleague did the smile test and said the right side of my face was dropping. It all looked like a stroke. I said I would look up my pcp’s phone number in the phone book as her office was just around the corner but the words were swimming on the page and I could not focus to find the pcp’s phone number. My colleague said no, I’m taking you to the ER. My BP was 172/70 when I got to the ER. The ER admitted me with a TIA. After the MRI, CT Scan, and Ultrasound all came back negative for blockage or narrowing of the arteries; the neurologist was called in and the Dx changed to a migraine. After 3 days in hospital trying to find a medication that would work for me I finally experienced the headache from hell. It took 5 hours after I was admitted to the ER before the onset of the headache and it was all frontal lobe. Once it hit, nothing would get rid of it. It was a horrible experience. I am still feeling in the a groggy state but after several days at home to rest, I finally go back to work tomorrow and hoping I can get my brain kicked back into gear. Horrible experience and how easy can a migraine be misdiagnoses with a stroke, and vice versa. Pretty interesting really.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    6 years ago

    While at conference, doctors have discussed this issue. It is difficult for all, however they did state that one thing can help when determining the difference: Those with a Migraine will usually be able to stick their tongue out straight, while someone with a stroke will usually have a tongue that sticks out to the side.

    Hope this helps. When in doubt, get to the ER. As a first responder I can assure you that we would MUCH rather have you come in unnecessarily than wait too long. Lost time is lost brain.


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