Basilar Type Migraine

Basilar type migraine, perviously known as migraine with brainstem aura and basilar artery migraine, is a rare form of migraine. Anyone can experience basilar type migraine, but it is most commonly found in adolescent girls. Symptoms experienced during the aura phase of basilar type migraine can include the following:

Dizziness and vertigo

Disorientation and confusion

Double vision and other visual changes

Tinitus

Loss of balance

Slurring of speech

Loss of consciousness

Tingling and/or pins and needles affecting both arms and/or legs

Hearing problems

The head pain experienced with basilar type migraine occurs at the base of the head. Several tests may be performed in order to rule out other conditions (such as epilepsy, if loss of consciousness is a symptom). These can include an MRI of the brain, an Electroencephalogram (EEG) and a 24-hour heart monitor.

It is important that this condition is diagnosed correctly. Specific medication is required to treat and manage basilar type migraine. In addition, several commonly used migraine medications are not suitable for use. It’s also important to be aware that those with basilar type migraine are at a slightly higher risk of stroke.

Because basilar type migraine is rare, it can be difficult to get a correct diagnosis. My basilar type migraine started when I was 13, having suffered from hemiplegic migraine for two years prior. It wasn’t until I was 23, when I was seen by a neurologist specialising in basilar type migraine at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, that I finally received an accurate diagnosis.

In the 10 years between my symptoms starting and my diagnosis, I had a CT and MRI scan, as well as several EEGs. When no abnormal electrical activity was found, the cause of my loss of consciousness was put down to ‘making it up’ and ‘doing it for attention’. Thankfully my family, friends and school didn’t believe this and were unfaltering in their support. I was passed between doctors and psychologists. Doctors, not knowing what was wrong, felt I had a mental health condition and sent me to psychologists. Psychologists were adamant that my symptoms were physical and sent me back to doctors. This cycle continued for several years.

It took two private appointments for the cause of my loss of consciousness to be agreed as migraine. I was then finally referred to a specialist in basilar type migraine. Since being with my specialist consultant, we have tried several medications specifically for basilar type migraine. All but one have proved to be much more helpful in controlling my symptoms. As a result of having a specialist in basilar type migraine and the correct medication, I haven’t lost consciousness in two years. This is a far cry from the twenty to thirty times a day when I was 13.

You can find support for living with basilar type migraine from Migraine Action.

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Useful resources –

Rare Diseases, Migraine with brainstem aura. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/5896/migraine-with-brainstem-aura Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) 6/15/2016.

The Migraine Trust, Migraine with brainstem aura. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/migraine-with-brainstem-aura/ C The Migraine Trust 2017.

The American Migraine Foundation, Basilar-Type Migraines. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/living-with-migraines/types-of-headachemigraine/basilar-type-migraines/ C The American Migraine foundation 2016.

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  • Peachy F

    I have never heard of this type of migraine before. I suffer from migraines also. I am not sure of the specific type, but I get auras and total loss of vision. I havent seen anyone blog about migraines before so its helpful to know there are sufferers out there. Thank you for posting this.

    Much Love
    http://www.tro-unicorns.uk

    • Tania Jayne

      You’re welcome lovely! I’m sorry to hear that you are a fellow migraineur. If you ever want to talk, feel free to Tweet me or email me. Xx

    • You’re welcome lovely! I’m sorry to hear that you are a fellow migraineur. If you ever want to talk, feel free to Tweet me or email me. Xx

      • Peachy F

        Thank you. I really appreciate that. x

  • This type of migraine describes this past week’s migraine, fell out of bed twice and almost incoherent for almost 36 hours – the bruises on my legs are horrid

    • Sending lots of love your way! It’s worth getting any unusual migraine symptoms checked out. Different medications help different types of migraine, so it may be if it persists that your primary care provider will want to review your medication. Xx

  • S.

    I have basilar migraine too, and have actually dedicated one of my sites to migraine and particularly migraine aura. There is some really interesting research going on, I am trying to pull together a post soon on cortical spreading depression which seems to be the most promising theory on migraine aura. I’m on Lamictal for mine and so long as the dose can keep up I am much less affected.

    • That’s fantastic! I’m going to be writing about basilar type migraine for Migraine Action so will be updating this page with that information. I’ve found it really hard to find much information about the condition on the internet so it’s good to know that there are others sharing their experiences of this rare condition. I’ve tried quite a few medications over the years. Some that have really helped & others that have had a negative effect. I’ve gotten on best with anti-convulsants. Xx

  • Wow, I didn’t know you suffered with these hun, not good. I’ve lost consciousness a couple of times from migraine but only seconds. I’m with on the chronic and daily headaches. I get cervicogenic headaches which can turn into a migraine if I don’t catch them, plus hormonal & chronic migraine.
    H x

    • They’re not fun, but at least I finally have a diagnosis. Fighting against ‘making it up’ and ‘attention seeking’ are really hard! Thankfully, after my being stabilised for a few years by medication, I haven’t lost consciousness recently. I’m so sorry that you’re in a similar boat with being classified as chronic. It’s hard, but great to know that we have each other for support. Xx

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