What is a migraine variant (equivalent)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2019
  • Author: Rima M Dafer, MD, MPH, FAHA; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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Migraine is a disorder affecting more than 13% of the general population in the United States. (See also Migraine in Children.) It is not a disease but a syndrome that is characterized by paroxysmal headache associated with other signs and symptoms. About 80% of migraineurs have migraine without aura, whereas migraine with typical aura accounts for 15–20% of cases. Isolated migraine aura without headache (acephalalgic migraine) may be encountered in 5% of patients. [1]

Migraine variant (or migraine equivalent) is the term applied to a migraine that exhibits itself in a form other than head pain. Such conditions are less recognized, less common, and less well understood than the typical migraines (both without and with aura) that usually affect children and young adults. Migraine variants may be characterized by the following:

  • Paroxysmal episodes of prolonged visual auras

  • Atypical sensory, motor, or visual aura

  • Confusion

  • Dysarthria

  • Focal neurologic deficits

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) manifestations

  • Other constitutional symptoms, with or without a headache

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