Can severe migraine headaches cause a stroke?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 12, 2016
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 Answers

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!

Community Answers

Kandksmom answered...

I imagine the above Dr. is well intentioned, but he is wrong. Migraines DO cause strokes and they are not as rare as he believes. I am writing this to let people know, especially women under 45 with migraines to get a handle on them now. I had a stroke on 2.25.10. I presented NO physiological symptoms at the hospital and no matter how hard I tried to explain that I was NOT having a migraine, no one would listen. The next day when MRI/MRA was available, the hospital was able to confirm what I had told them the night before. I had a stroke in my left cerebellum. The dead tissue area measures 6cm by 4 cm. I had no paralysis, no weak facial muscles, no vomiting. I could walk, but was listing. I passed the neuro exam in the hospital. Please continue to read the research on stroke and migraine, find a great migraine Dr. or neurologist who specializes in migraines and strokes. Together try to stop your migraines altogether. Learn to take care of yourself when you have a migraine. Do not "work through them". The research suggests that it can happen again. If your migraine is "different" get immediate help. Thanks for letting me share.

Bepj answered...

my daughter had a stroke over three years ago and has had migraines for years. whenshe had the stroke she was only 36 years old. she had bowled all that day, came home took a walk and laid down to rest. within 5 minutes she was incoherant and vomiting. she couldn't walk or talk. she was rushed to the hospital,got there within 5 or 10 minutes, she was given the shot to break up the clot but it didn't work for her. she can't talk very well, walks with a brace and her right hand is completely paralyzed. she continues to have migraines very often and nothing seems to help. she has only a few days out of a month where she feels well. all of her doctors have told me,i'm her mother, that a migraine couldn't have caused her stroke but they can't tell me what did. they have given her every kind of test that there is and nothing proves positive. she has tried botox for her hand but didn't have any response so discontinued it. if it will help stop the migraines she will gladly try the botox again.