Can severe migraine headaches cause a stroke?

Potra57 asked...

I've had migraine headaches for 29 years, but lately they have chaged in intensity and medication response.  My husband read somewhere that if a migraine lasts for more than 72 hours it could cause a stroke.  Is this true?  Lately mine last for 5-7 days at a time.  Once it went on for 11 days.  It scares me because the healthcare system where I live is terrible.

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Migraines can cause a stroke, but that would be extraordinarily rare.  If you do not have stroke-like symptoms with your migraines (such as weakness of an arm, leg, or part of your face; or numbness in those same areas) it is very unlikely that you would ever suffer a stroke.  That said, if a migraine goes on for a very long time, it can leave a very tiny scar in the brain.

It sounds to me like you need to see a Neurologist or Headache specialist right away.  It is worth traveling for this.  They can help you tailor a medication regimen, help you avoid headache triggers, and help you break the cycle of your chronic headaches.

Your headaches sound severe and chronic enough that a general Neurologist may refer you to a specific Headache specialist for more thorough care.  Headache specialists are located throughout the country, and in most cases, there is one within a few hours drive.  Good luck!