Woman dealing with a rare type of migraineShare on Pinterest
Sergey Filimonov/Stocksy United

Over one in six adults in the United States is affected by migraine attacks — severe pain in the head that’s sometimes accompanied by vision problems, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Rarely, however, migraine can cause symptoms and complications in other parts of the body. These migraine variants are often named according to the part of the body that’s affected. Most of these migraine variants are very rare.

Your doctor may be able to tell if your symptoms indicate you have one of these rare or extreme types of migraine or another condition altogether.

Hemiplegic migraine affects a very small percentage of people in the United States. People with hemiplegic migraine attacks experience paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, disturbances in speech and vision, and other symptoms that often mimic a stroke.

The paralysis is usually temporary, but it can last for several days.

Two types of hemiplegic migraine exist:

  • Familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM). FHM is an inherited genetic migraine disorder that causes hemiplegic migraine. Genetic testing can determine whether you have the gene mutations that are associated with this migraine variant. If your parent, sibling, or child has FHM, the chances you’ll have FHM are higher.
  • Sporadic hemiplegic migraine (SHM). SHM is associated with hemiplegic migraine that occurs in people without the genetic disorder and without a family history of hemiplegic migraine. Both FHM and SHM are diagnosed after you have symptoms of a hemiplegic migraine on several occasions. However, if you don’t have a relative with diagnosed hemiplegic migraine, doctors may indicate you have SHM. Both present the same way — the only difference is the presence of the known genetic risk.

Children are typically most affected by abdominal migraine. Symptoms generally last 1 to 72 hours and include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flushing

For children who have been struggling with this migraine variant for a longer period of time, symptoms may also include:

This variant is more common in children who have a family history of migraine attacks.

People who experience repeated and ongoing episodes of migraine may have a variant called chronic migraine. It’s also sometimes called transformed migraine.

If you have this variant, you typically experience attacks on at least half of the days in a month. You might have migraine symptoms daily or almost daily.

This type of migraine typically begins in your late teens or early twenties, and the frequency of migraine attacks will increase over time.

Sometimes called an intractable migraine, status migrainosus is a very serious and very rare migraine variant. It typically causes migraine attacks so severe and prolonged (usually lasting for more than 72 hours) that you must be hospitalized.

Most complications associated with this migraine variant arise because of prolonged vomiting and nausea. Over time, you’ll become dehydrated and need intravenous treatment to stay hydrated.

As the name suggests, this type of migraine is related to the menstrual cycle and the fluctuations of hormones that precede it.

The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Women’s Mental Health estimates that 7 to 14 percent of people who menstruate experience migraine symptoms during the premenstrual or menstrual phase of their cycles.

Migraine attacks caused by menstruation are typically more severe and last longer than migraine attacks at other times of the month.

Retinal migraine is a rare migraine variant characterized by repeated instances of visual disturbances, such as blindspots or blindness on one side of the field of vision.

These disturbances typically last for between a minute and an hour and usually occur before head pain begins.

Basilar migraine, also known as Bickerstaff syndrome or migraine with brainstem aura, typically causes dizziness and vertigo prior to head pain.

However, this migraine variant may also cause the following symptoms prior to pain:

This type of migraine attack is most common in adolescent girls and young women, so researchers believe it’s likely related to the hormonal changes that affect people at these ages.

Migraine symptoms can vary widely and mimic other conditions. Speak with your doctor immediately if you experience unusual symptoms not typically associated with your migraine symptoms.

These may include:

  • slurred speech or drooping on one side of the face
  • weakness in the limbs
  • symptoms accompanied by double vision, fever, neck stiffness, confusion, seizure, or numbness
  • symptoms much more severe than usual
  • any loss of consciousness

Keeping track of your symptoms, their severity, and how often they occur can help you better understand changes.

There are many treatment options to explore with your healthcare team. Talk with them about your triggers to aid in preventing migraine attacks.