Epilepsy Research UK
1,886 members548 posts

Migraine or epilepsy?

Hi all, just a quick question. What is the difference between migraine and epilepsy, and how do you know which you have?

I understand they are similar, occurring in phases and share similar symptoms. My current symptoms were suspected to be an atypical migraine with aura, but now my GP is considering epilepsy. I very rarely have headaches, and when I do they aren't painful enough to be considered migraine.

Does anyone understand how these two conditions differ?

Thanks! x

4 Replies

Hi Kalmilar. I think I may have replied to a post like this before. There is a seizure called occipital lobe seizure that gives off the same symptoms as migraine, minus the headache. There are migraines in the eye called occular migraine. These produce some of the symptoms as occular migraine but again minus the headache. My understanding is that its do to with irritation in the blood vessels and nerves in the eyes. I recently have just been told by my neuro that I may have possible occular migranes. I thought it may have been occipital lobe seizure due to the same symptoms which is luminous purple lines, circles etc in my vision depending on the lighting. I know someone who experiences numbness of the face and arm with her migraine, although she does have the headache aswell. So hers would be classed as a 'typical migraine ' coming from the head.

Hope this can be of some help :-)


I don't know much about migraines, but I do know that some do not have a headache involved, it can be things like intense nausea as well.

As far as epilepsy goes (well this is probably also true for migraines) there are many, many different types of seizure. I guess you are not having what may be considered by outsiders as a "typical" seizure that involves collapsing or jerking. Less obvious seizures include brief moments of unconsciousness and "interruptions", by which I mean you might find yourself having missed something, either lost track of a converstation or found you have moved somewhere without knowledge of doing so. Like RR25 mentioned, your sight may also be affected.

Often people with epilepsy have more than ne type of seizure, though, so keep a lookout for anything else you think is unusual, for example, jerking of the arms or legs.



I posted on here last year asking a similar question! My epilepsy has been controlled by med for nearly 4 years - thankfully! I suffered with complex partial seizures - I would not lose consciousness, but i wasn't aware what was happening, where I was etc for a minute or two. Then it would take a while for me to 'come round'.

Then last year, on several occasions I suffered from spells of dizziness, loss of coordination, even slurred speech on one occasion, and was worried about it being related to my epilepsy. It didn't even cross my mind that it was a migraine until the neurologist suggested it, because I never suffered from headaches at all afterwards! He suggested the difference in my case, was that during a migraine I was always aware of what was happening, unlike a seizure.

I hope you get sorted soon - the uncertainty really made me worry, so I can imagine how you must be feeling x

1 like

Hi kalmillar,

It's quite a difficult one to answer as before I was diagnosed with epilepsy I was told I was probably having and acute chronic migranouse phase, then the diffuse tumour was found in left medial temporal lobe and and added to my wifes observations confirmed the neuro's new dianoses of complex focal seizures with absence, plus simple focal seizures.

Where it gets confusing is that the auras prior to a seizure can be very similar to migraine plus the side effects of the control drugs for the epilepsy can do the same. Post seizure feelings can also be confused with migraine, I always get severe fatigue and headache.

The neurologist should be able to sort he wheat from the chaff eventually but it can be a long process unless they can a) as in my case find a physical cause (don't panic, VERY rare) or b) actually catch screwed up brain patterns during an eeg (again in my case wasn't found because by then already on control meds which were having partial control so made it less likely to find).

The worst part is, as nicola has said, the uncertainty and not knowing. Even if the answers that you get aren't the ones you want to hear it is far easier to cope with the problems because you can then find proper coping strategies to deal with it.

If it turns out to be epilepsy then learning to recognise seizure triggers, identifiying auras prior to seizure or, if like me you are not always aware that a seizure has occured, the follow up symptoms after seizure. The same of course is true of migraine and ther aere now some great meds that can help with them now although you may have to fight to get the best ones because they are expensive.

Control meds are very good and although it can sometimes be a while before the right drug or drug combination that works best for you can be found, then control can be gained.

There are some upsides though such as free prescriptions (all meds not just AED's and a bus pass if you have to surrender your license. A bit of cold comfort I know but still a bit of a positive.

I'm not medically qualified and only relate my own experience but do hope this is of some comfort and reassurance to you.

Take care and wishing you well



You may also like...