U.S. News

Complex Migraine? Stroke? Taking A Closer Look

Video of CBS Los Angeles TV reporter Serene Branson went viral this week when the young journalist began speaking gibberish on-air, leading to concern that she'd suffered a stroke.

The good news is, she didn't.

ABC News reports that Branson's episode has been diagnosed as a complex migraine, which can mimic the effects of a small stroke, particularly aphasia. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, aphasia "impairs the expression and understanding of language."

Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program in the UCLA Department of Neurology, who examined Branson after the incident, clarified that the seeming aphasia was actually "dysphasic language dysfunction," according to ABC. Which is a symptom of complex migraines, not strokes.

So what, exactly, is a complex migraine? Basically, a migraine that results in seemingly the same neurological symptoms as, well, a stroke. But Dr. Charles clarified that while both are the result of big-time changes in blood flow in the brain, complex migraines don't result in any actual, long-term damage.

That doesn't mean, however, that they should be ignored. According to The New York Times, there is now evidence that migraine sufferers with a history of aura -- described by the Mayo Clinic as a migrane with flashes of light, blindspots, tingling or speech problems -- are at a greater risk of ischemic (clot-related) strokes, something to the tune of 20 strokes per 100,000 people per year.

According to the American Stroke Association, a seemingly similar incident to be taken extremely seriously is a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, often referred to as a "mini stroke." This too results in temporary stroke-like symptoms and approximately one third of people who suffer a TIA go on to have an actual stroke within a year.