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Stroke or Headache? When Migraine Symptoms Mimic Stroke Symptoms

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The video of reporter Serene Branson (KCBS-TV) slurring her speech and speaking gibberish while covering the Grammys has gone viral, making headlines all over the country. Many people wondered, did she have a stroke on air? Did she drink a little too much at the show?

But during a follow up interview, Branson revealed that she suffered from a complex migraine. The symptoms of a complex migraine, slurred speech and slight numbness on the side of the face, mimic that of a stroke.

According to Branson, she came down with a severe headache around 10PM. As she reviewed her notes, "the words on the page are blurry" and she noticed that her "thoughts were not forming the way they normally do." While on air, there was an numbness on the right side of her face that prevented of her from saying what she wanted.

While the symptoms of a complex migraine and a stroke may appear similar, the two conditions are different. A complex migraine is caused by an electrical malfunction in the brain, while stroke is caused by a restriction of blood to the brain. Also, the effects of a complex migraine are reversible. The symptoms only last up to an hour at the most.

If you are feeling any of the symptoms of a severe migraine, especially for an extended period of time, don't hesitate to see a doctor.

February 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm
(1) K K says:

This happened to me a few months ago. It was very scary- I actually went to the ER. My entire right side went numb, my words were not making sense, just bizarre!

February 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm
(2) Bryan says:

All be wary, I had a complex migraine with stroke 6 weeks ago. This is rare, 1 in 100000 males more common in females. If you experience symtems get it checked out completely with an MRI. Mine was initally diagnosed as just complex migraine but the MRI showed I had also had a significant stroke.

March 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm
(3) Julie says:

This happened to me once and I went to the ER. The ER doctor wanted to do a spinal tap because he thought I had menigitis…? He was not to concerned and sent me home that night after I was able to get my speech back. Sometimes even the most severe times, Dr’s in the ER don’t think your sick.

March 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm
(4) Brian says:

This happened to me once and I thought I was getting a stroke. It led me to more research into complex migraine and I now have a greater understanding of headaches. Sorry for what happened to Serene. I know what it is like.

March 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm
(5) Anne says:

Stroke like symptoms can be caused by a disease called CADASIL. It is frequently misdianosed as Complex Migraine with Aura or Multiple Sclerosis. Go to cadasilfoundation.org for more information. There is also a CADASIL support group on Facebook. Check it out especially if you have a family history of neurological problems. CADASIL is not as rare as it is portrayed to be.

April 17, 2011 at 12:44 am
(6) laura b says:

I was diagnosed with Hemiplegic migraines. That sounds like what she had. My left side often has stroke like symptoms. My speech also gets slurred or mixed up.

August 22, 2011 at 9:44 am
(7) Sue says:

Laura, I agree that there are lots of similarities to hemiplegic migranes. I think they are perhaps the same thing. I have been diagnosed with either name by various doctors.
I finally have a wonderful Dr situation!

September 21, 2011 at 9:40 am
(8) migraine says:

Hi everybody,

I also suffer from migraines. But is is rare that I feel the same symptoms as all the other people here.

My migraines are severe, but not like a stroke. Is it something that progresses in time? I mean, do I have to do something now to prevent this later?

Thanks in advance for replying!

November 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm
(9) Fran says:

i suffered migraines since the age of 16 and nobody wanted to listen no doctors. the light,noise and the pressure was awful,with the votioming for a week time. So left as is by doctors at the age of 43 had a major stroke had 30 percent chance of living. have some problems but since the operated me in montreal,at chum hospital i am very greatful as i have five children and grandma of two.Two of my children saved my life as i told them call 911 its more than a migraine i was lucky to have had them there or i would no longer be here. a mother who has great amount of love to share i glad to not have finish my journey.

April 5, 2012 at 9:48 pm
(10) kris says:

I have developed a speech problems with my migrains but it last for several hrs. I also feel off balance & unable to think. MRI done during hospital stay was negative. finally got appt with neurologist.

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