Does a TIA headache have any features that distinguish it from migraine head pain, or vice versa?

Suppose you’re diagnosed with migraine headaches. And suppose as time goes on, you’re aware that your risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack is increasing (e.g., you’re getting older and not in the best of physical condition).

At some point you may then fear a TIA every time you have a migraine headache. Is there a way to manage this anxiety?

“Very good question,” begins Rob Lapporte, MD, board certified in emergency medicine and chief medical officer of Physician 360, a telemedicine service.

Dr. Lapporte explains, “Some migraines can present with symptoms that are very similar, if not identical to a TIA or a stroke.

“I would say that if you commonly get migraines and the pattern changes, I would seek medical attention immediately.

“For instance, if your migraine normally consists of an aura of visual disturbances and photophobia (discomfort from light) and is followed by pain, but you suddenly develop aphasia (inability to speak or slurred speech), I would get medical attention immediately.

“If your migraine always mimics a TIA, I would talk to your doctor about getting regular screening exams, such as Doppler studies of the carotid arteries and EKGs.”

Get to Know Your Migraines

Keep a journal of your migraine headache experiences.

Jot down their characteristics to identify the pattern, so that if one day you have an episode that seems different than past ones, you can refer to your notes and see if, indeed, it truly is different.

Also realize that a TIA can cause only a headache as a symptom. Carotid artery disease can cause a TIA:

A particle of plaque buildup in a carotid artery breaks loose and travels to the brain, lodging in a small blood vessel and temporarily (transiently) cutting off blood flow to the part of the brain that the blood vessel feeds into — causing the TIA.

Dr. Lapporte has been practicing evidence-based clinical medicine in emergency rooms and urgent care centers for almost 20 years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.   


­Top image: ©Lorra Garrick