Basilar Migraine | Symptoms, Diagnoses, Treatments and Complications

Basilar Migraine

This is an uncommon type of migraine which usually has its starting point from the brainstem; it may result from the difficulty of blood to the reach the brain due to the constriction of the blood vessels leading to the brain. Other common names associated with this type of migraine include Bickerstaff migraine, basilar artery migraine, basilar-type migraine. The involvement of the basilar artery to the name may sometimes be confused to mean that the attack is initiated from the basilar artery; however, research has shown that the nerves rather than the vessels are the cause of this type of migraine. A basilar migraine affects all ages and it is not gender-based, although, it is more common to females than males as other types of aura.

basilar migraine symptoms


The aura of a basilar migraine usually commenced from the brainstem or from both sides of the cerebral hemisphere, and often last for less than an hour. The typical symptoms may include:

  • Depletion of the visual senses, resulting in zigzag lights or flashes in the vision
  • Depletion of sensory cells which may often include the numbness of the face and fingers
  • Damage to the vocal cavity affecting speech
  • Vertigo (feeling of movement/spinning of self or environment)
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Impaired hearing
  • Double/blur vision)
  • Unsteady movements
  • Reduction in the level of consciousness


The specific aura symptoms which are peculiar to basilar migraines are often used in it diagnoses. However, certain of the aura may be easily confused with those of hemiplegic migraines, although hemiplegic migraines are known to cause severe weakness of one side of the whole body. There are some other medical conditions that may appear similar to a basilar migraine, such may include: Meningitis, a tumor of the brain, seizures, stroke. Thus to be sure of the exact cause of a headache and the type of migraine involved, the doctor must subject the patient to MRI test, in order to get the image of the various brain vessels in the skull, or CT scan. An EEG is often performed to rule out seizure disorders; especially, when people experience confusion or change in the alert state.

Basilar Migraine Treatment

The treatments are centered on the treatment of the aura of a basilar migraine and eliminating the associated pains. This may involve the use of various drugs and medication which may include: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and anti-nauseant medication such as phenothiazine. The preventive medications which have been found to be very effective for this type of migraine include the verapamil, topiramate and lamotrigine medication.Patients with basilar migraines should always watch out for the symptoms and start appropriate medication at the onset of these symptoms, an analgesic may be taken to kill off the pain before it becomes severe.


Ischemic stroke is the major risk factor that is faced by people with this type of migraine; ischemic stroke has been studied to be associated with the reduction of oxygen which is normally conveyed by the blood to the brain. Women that are patients with a basilar migraine and are using combined contraceptive pills are at a higher risk of ischemic stroke.