Vestibular migraines are a root cause of recurrent episodes of dizziness and vertigo spells for some people.

Duration

A vestibular migraine usually lasts for hours. In some cases, it can last for days.

Frequency

Most patients get vestibular migraines at a certain frequency per week, per month, or per year.

Some patients even get a recurrent vestibular migraine every day for weeks or months. In those cases, the deeper root cause of the intractable migraine needs to be found and addressed.

The deeper root cause of recurrent daily migraines is often related to stress, the gut, or the neck.

One of the goals of treatment for patients with vestibular migraines is to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes.

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraines

Migraines typically are associated with pain or headache on one side of the face or head. A vestibular migraine may occur with or without a headache.

Although migraine episodes may include head pain, they are not necessarily the same as headaches. The vestibular migraines that occur without a headache are often overlooked as a root cause of dizziness and vertigo, since the patient is not complaining of any head pain or headache.

Symptoms of vestibular migraines can include dizziness, motion-activated vertigo, nausea with or without vomiting, and imbalance. These symptoms may occur without any pain, which often confuses people who think all migraines include a headache.

Migraines are typically not relieved by anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.

Smell

People with migraines may also experience a heightened sense of smell during an episode.

For example, when I have a vestibular migraine, I can smell the contents of the kitchen trash can from our living room. I usually have to ask my husband to take out all the trash in our house so my brain can rest.

This symptom can make body odor, perfume or cologne, cigarette smoke, and cleaning supplies more offensive during an episode.

Sight

A vestibular migraine can cause sensitivity to light during an episode.

Strobe lights, flickering lights, and LED lights can worsen symptoms of a migraine.

This symptom can make reading difficult on a screen, such as a phone, computer, or tablet, during an episode.

Hearing

During a migraine, symptoms usually worsen when exposed to loud sounds like jackhammering or music.

Sensitivity to loud sounds can be a lifelong characteristic for some people (and you know who you are), but this symptom may only occur during the migraine episode for other people.

Triggers

Getting overheated can trigger an onset of a migraine or cause migraine-related dizziness to feel worse.

Other triggers can include certain foods, so digestion may be linked to this cause of dizziness.

Neck tension and neck pain can be a migraine trigger for some people.

Stress and mental tension is a common migraine trigger.

Lack of sleep, alcohol, and junk food can trigger migraine episodes.

What To Do

Many people with a migraine need to hunker down in a cool, quiet, dark room and try to go to sleep to relieve an episode.

Migraine management needs to focus on avoiding migraine triggers on a daily basis, to prevent an episode.

Talk to Your Doctor

There is no definitive diagnostic test to identify vestibular migraines as a root cause of dizziness or vertigo. So a careful review of patient history and observation of symptom patterns is the best approach.

You should talk to your doctor or find a migraine specialist. They can diagnose you with vestibular migraines if appropriate, and prescribe migraine medication which may help.

To learn seven strategies that might help prevent migraines, click here.

Disclaimer

This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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