Types of migraine
Knowing about the different types of migraine can help understand your child or teen’s symptoms and direct you to better prevention and coping strategies as well as helping to communicate with your doctor. It also lets you and your child know that no matter how painful or frightening their migraine is they are not alone and that other people may experience the same thing as them.
There are several types of migraine and some are common, and some are rarer. Not all of the different types of migraine are exclusive, sometimes a person will be diagnosed with both migraine with aura and migraine without aura, for example, if they experience both different types of migraine. Below are listed all the types of migraine that children get:
Familial hemiplegic migraine
Hemiplegic migraine that runs in families. Generally there needs to be at least one or more other members of the family, such as a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, who also gets hemiplegic migraine to get this diagnosis.
Sporadic hemiplegic migraine
This is when the person who has hemiplegic migraine does not have any other family members who also experience motor weakness when they have migraines, or do not get migraines (in any form) at all. If your child or teen has sporadic hemiplegic migraine, generally their doctor will have done extra tests to rule out other possible causes for their symptoms.
Migraine without aura
Migraine without aura was previously called common migraine. In children it is generally a headache felt on both sides across the forehead. It may also be felt in the face. Migraine without aura often happens with nausea, and sensitivity to light, sound and touch. As children age they may begin to experience their headaches as being on only one side of their head and may refer to them as pulsating.
Migraine with aura
Migraine with aura was previously called classic migraine. Aura usually happens before the headache phase but can occur after the headache phase begins or continue into the headache phase. Visual aura is the most common type of aura. People with visual aura often describe it as a curved zigzag figure seen next to where they are starring. In children and adolescents, aura may be other visual symptoms and not the classic zigzag figure. Aura can also be other sensory disturbances. Another common form of aura is pins and needles or numbness that is generally felt on only one side of the body. The numbness can affect arm and legs but also the face and tongue of the person who experiences it. It can affect speech or language abilities in the individual as while as their ability to move their body. Some people experience the aura symptoms without experiencing a headache afterwards; if your doctor has excluded other diagnoses then it is still considered a migraine. If your child or teen experiences aura they may find it difficult to explain it, a good way to help understand their migraines better is to track them, keep track of how quickly the aura symptoms set in and whether they happen to only one of both sides of the body.
Hemiplegic migraine is under the category of migraine with aura. In hemiplegic migraine the individual experiences motor weakness as the one of the features of their aura. There are two categories of hemiplegic migraine:
Retinal migraine is another form of migraine with aura. In this form there will be repeated attacks where visual disturbances happen in only one eye. The visual disturbances may include flashes or sparkles of light, a partial loss of vision (like a blind spot), or a full loss of vision in one eye.
Chronic migraine is when a person gets a headache for 15 or more days out of the month for more than 3 months. When they get their headaches, at least 8 of them in the month have features of a migraine headache. Chronic migraine is one diagnosis that if given, encompasses all other types of migraine. If your child is diagnosed with chronic migraine, they will be not also be classified as having migraine with aura or migraine without aura even though they may have previously been given one of these diagnoses. If your child or teen has this type of headache it is very important to monitor how much medication your child takes to relieve their headaches. A common problem with chronic migraine is medication-overuse headache, when it is the medication that is eventually what is causing the headaches.
Information adapted from the International Classification of Headache Disorders 3.