5 Lesser-Known Migraine Types to Learn About

There are many things about migraine that remain unknown. Healthcare professionals still struggle with the correctly diagnosing headache disorders and especially migraine. In this article, we will briefly share about 5 types of migraine that are less commonly diagnosed, but still have an equally debilitating impact on the lives of those with these migraine types.  


Hemiplegic Migraine


Hemiplegic migraine is a rare variant of migraine with aura, with a reported prevalence of 0.01% likely to be affected by this type of migraine [1]. In Migraine Buddy, about 2,000 users have reported at least one instance of hemiplegic migraine. 

According to the American Migraine Foundation, the symptoms of hemiplegic migraine include weakness on one side of the body (hemiplegia), hindrances in consciousness (such as confusion and even “profound coma”), and common aura symptoms like speech disturbances, visual disruptions, numbing etc. 

Hemiplegic migraine can be divided into two types:

  • Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM): FHM is genetically inherited migraine—meaning that you will have a higher chance of developing hemiplegic migraine if you have a parent or sibling with FHM.

  • Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM): SHM refers to hemiplegic migraine experienced by a person who does not have a family history of hemiplegic migraine.

The experience of a hemiplegic migraine, according to the Migraine Buddy community, can be described as follows:

“I get chest pains a lot. My migraines are almost always on my left side, my right side will feel very heavy as if it’s being pulled to the ground and I become very weak on that side.”

“I get weakness on my left side, and it feels like someone is tasering my ribs.”

“[My HM] starts with lack of vision followed by the feeling of blood drain from my arms. Probably around 30mins after headache starts.” 


Ophthalmic Migraine


Ophthalmic (or ocular) migraine is a common term used to describe migraine characterized by symptoms including visual disturbances, blind spots, and blindness. These symptoms last about a minute before the migraine begins, and can occur with or without the head pain. Out of 200 people with migraine, one of them would have the experience of an ocular migraine [2]. The Migraine Buddy community reports about 20,000 ocular migraine attacks.

Ocular migraine is also used interchangeably to refer to another type of migraine known as retinal migraine. The important difference to make between retinal and ocular migraine is that the symptoms of retinal migraine affect only one of the eyes while an ocular migraine usually affects both eyes.

Retinal migraine is rare and the visual symptoms are often more intrusive than an ocular migraine. If you do experience new symptoms similar to retinal migraine, it is recommended to seek treatment immediately as it may also be indicative of other serious conditions.


Vestibular Migraine


Vestibular migraine, often known as migrainous vertigo, refers to migraine accompanied by symptoms like vertigo, dizziness, and imbalance. People with vestibular migraine may feel the room spinning during the attack (external vertigo) as well as feel like they are moving when they are not (internal vertigo). The vertigo may worsen with certain motions such as standing up, looking down etc.

The American Migraine Foundation highlights that “[v]estibular migraine affects up to 3% of the adult population and affects up to 5 times more women than men”. Within Migranie Buddy alone, an estimated 0.1% of migraine attacks are recorded as vestibular in nature.

Diagnosing vestibular migraine is challenging in itself as there are other conditions that have similar vertigo symptoms, such as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), Ménière’s disease, and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke”. Consult with a specialist who has experience treating vestibular migraine as well as ENT specialists to rule out such vestibular conditions. You may also share your experiences with the community below!


Migraine with Brainstem Aura (Basilar Migraine)


Formerly known as basilar migraine, the American Migraine Foundation shares that this type of migraine refers to migraine attacks with “aura symptoms originating from the base of the brain (brainstem) or both sides of the brain (cerebral hemispheres) at the same time.”   

The symptoms of migraine with brainstem aura usually include two or more of the following: vertigo/dizziness, slurred speech, ringing in the ears, visual disturbances in both eyes, and loss of consciousness.

The original term of “basilar migraine” was coined by Bickerstaff who had suggested that young females were more likely to experience migraine with brainstem aura. However, it can occur in all age groups with the typical female dominance in general migraine demographics.  

Although the exact prevalence is not known in the larger migraine community, a study in the neurology outpatient of a tertiary care hospital in Chongqing, China, revealed that about 1.5% of their patients have basilar-type migraine [3].


Abdominal Migraine


Abdominal migraine, as the name suggests, is characterized by pain in the abdomen and occurs more frequently in young children, with symptoms lasting up to three days. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Children who experience migraine can often experience delayed development. 

Receiving a diagnosis for abdominal migraine has been incredibly challenging as shared by Migraine Buddy users, with some being “passed off by doctors” and others saying that “[n]ot every medical professional recognized it”.

Your abdominal migraine experiences are extremely valid and feel free to reach out to the Migraine Buddy community below to share about them!

Which type of migraine do you have and have you been able to receive a diagnosis for it? We hope this article has helped you learn a little more about these migraine types!


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513302/#:~:text=A%20migraine%20is%20a%20common,a%20reported%20prevalence%20of%200.01%25.

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/retinal-migraine#:~:text=Ocular%20causes%20of%20headache&text=It%20occurs%20in%20as%20many,visual%20loss%20in%20young%20adults
[3] https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/15/7/1230/1878775

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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