Understanding Vestibular Migraine : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

1. What Is Vestibular Migraine?

A vestibular migraine is a nervous system problem that causes repeated dizziness (or vertigo) in people who  have a history of migraine symptoms. Unlike traditional migraines, you may not always have a headache.

There are many names for this type of problem. Your doctor might also call it:

  • Migraine-associated vertigo
  • Migrainous vertigo

2. What are the symptoms of Vestibular Migraine?

The main symptoms are recurrent episodes of  headache and dizziness. “Vestibular” refers to the inner ear, which controls your hearing and balance. 

  • Migraine headache symptoms such as severe, throbbing headache, usually on one side of the head
  • Dizziness that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Sensitivity to light, smell and noise
  • Unsteadiness and loss of balance 
  • Extreme motion sensitivity
  • A feeling of disorientation or confusion

You could get dizzy and have balance problems without having a headache at all. Other times, the vertigo symptoms can happen before, during or after the headache.

3.What are the causes of Vestibular Migraine?

Vestibular migraines, like other migraine syndromes, tend to run in families. Although science has not completely clarified the complex mechanism of migraine, it is known that women tend to suffer more from the condition than men, and symptoms may get worse around menstruation.

In addition, people vulnerable to vestibular migraines can experience episodes after migraine triggers including altered sleep patterns, menstrual cycle and food such as chocolate, ripened or aged cheese and red wine.

4. How Are Vestibular Migraines diagnosed?

There’s no blood or imaging test that can tell for sure. Your doctor might suggest the following test:

  • Audiogram
  • Balance assessment test
  • MRI brain

5. Vestibular Migraine Treatment

Your doctor will prescribe different drugs to stop an attack when it happens. This is called abortive therapy.

  • Vestibular suppressant drugs.
  • If you have frequent or disabling vestibular migraines, your doctor may prescribe drugs similar to traditional migraine prevention medications. You take these regularly to make the headaches less severe or less frequent. 

Apart from medications, lifestyle changes play a very important role in managing vestibular migraines.

6. What Lifestyle Changes that can help with Vestibular Migraine?

You may be able to reduce the number and intensity of your vestibular migraine attacks by:

  • Consistent sleep routine
  • Eating on a regular schedule (no skipping meals)
  • Managing Stress
  • Exercise
  • Recognize migraine triggers  (Like caffeine, chocolates) and avoid them 
  • Low salt diet
  • Vestibular rehabilitation exercises
  • Regular sleep pattern

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