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What Does a Vestibular Migraine Feel Like? Treatment, Triggers

Vestibular migraine is a type of migraine that causes vertigo, as well as dizziness, unsteadiness, or lack of balance.

Vestibular migraine is a type of migraine that causes vertigo (a sensation that you are spinning or your surroundings are moving or falling around you) as its primary symptom. As part of their migraine symptoms, up to 40 percent of people with migraine will have vertigo or balance issues.

Other symptoms may include dizziness, unsteadiness, or lack of balance, which may or may not be accompanied by a headache.

  • People generally report that they were severely dizzy out of nowhere and don’t feel like they were standing on solid ground.
  • Some people describe it as spinning or rocking sensation.
  • They become queasy or puke up as a result of light or sound sensitivity.
  • Episodes can last from minutes to hours, and there is a chronic variety in which people are frequently out of balance.
  • Many people have a history of migraine headaches before developing vestibular migraine.

There is frequently a significant association between migraines and vertigo, but not all episodes of vertigo are accompanied by a migraine headache, making this disease difficult to diagnose.

17 symptoms of vestibular migraine

Vestibular migraine can cause various symptoms.

Seventeen signs and symptoms of vestibular migraine include:

  • Vertigo
  • Imbalance or unsteadiness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Floaty/fuzzy/dizziness
  • Sweating/panic
  • Sensitivity to light/noise/motion
  • Tinnitus 
  • Headache/pressure feeling in your head
  • Ear fullness
  • Visual changes/aura
  • Tiredness
  • Pins and needles/numbness in the face
  • Hearing loss
  • Flashing lights
  • Numbness
  • Tingling of parts of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Symptoms can develop over a few hours and frequently leave you feeling fatigued and depleted. Vestibular migraine is becoming a more widely accepted cause of episodic vertigo.

    What are the risk factors for vestibular migraine?

    Risk factors for vestibular migraines include:

    • You are at an increased risk of a vestibular migraine if you are a woman between 20 and 40 years.
    • People with a history of migraines or a family history of severe headaches may develop vestibular migraines.


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    What are the possible triggers and causes of vestibular migraine?

    The precise cause of vestibular migraines is unknown. Many experts, however, feel that there is overlap and erroneous connections between pain signals and vestibular signals from the inner ear, as well as electrical migraine pathways.

    Many of the generally established migraine triggers, such as lack of sleep, consumption of monosodium glutamate, and certain other foods and dehydration, are contributing factors to vestibular migraines.

    Vestibular migraine is the most prevalent cause of spontaneous episodic vertigo in adults, accounting for about 10 percent of all people coming to a dizziness clinic. The overall incidence in the general population is about one percent.

    The following are some of the most common causes and triggers of a vestibular migraine:

    • Environmental triggers
    • Hormonal fluctuations

    Twelve common causes or triggers of a vestibular migraine include:

  • Menstrual periods
  • Weather changes (barometric pressure variations)
  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Caffeine
  • Exercise
  • Watching screens such as computers or TV
  • Bright lights
  • Certain foods
  • Skipping meals
  • Thirteen food triggers of vestibular migraines include:

  • Aged or ripened cheese
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Certain fruits, such as avocados, raisins, passion fruit, banana, and citrus fruit
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Fermented foods
  • Foods with monosodium glutamate
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Peapods and bean pods
  • Smoked, cured, or processed meats
  • Sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk
  • Tea, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages
  • Yeast bread
  • 4 treatment options for a vestibular migraine

    Vestibular migraine is a complicated condition that necessitates a proper diagnosis. It can be treated in various ways.

    Four treatment options for a vestibular migraine include:

  • Medications:
    • A neurologist may prescribe one or more drugs to assist alleviate the symptoms of a vestibular migraine.
    • Certain medications can help prevent migraines, whereas others can help you manage a migraine that you already have.
  • Diet modifications:
    • Your doctor may ask you to avoid the foods that can trigger migraines.
  • Vestibular rehabilitation:
    • A vestibular rehabilitation therapist may be recommended by your neurologists to assist you to learn coping methods for your problems.
  • Lifestyle modifications:
    • A specialist will advise you to obtain enough sleep, take steps to reduce stress in your everyday life, and exercise regularly.

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    Medical treatments for vestibular migraine

    If lifestyle adjustments alone aren’t enough to control your vestibular migraine (which is rather frequent), your doctor can prescribe various drugs, including:

    • Beta-blockers:
      • They work by limiting blood vessel dilatation, which is suspected to play a role in migraine development.
    • Calcium channel blockers:
      • They work by keeping the artery walls from contracting and constricting by inhibiting calcium transport across cell membrane barriers.
    • Various antidepressants:
      • They assist in reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety, including migraines, which can occur as a result of stress.
      • These drugs help modulate serotonin levels, which can reduce migraine frequency and/or severity.
    • Physical therapy:
      • Physical therapy is an important aspect of treating this form of migraine. 
      • Most people are scared to move their heads or leave their homes due to vestibular migraine.
      • The physical therapist can explain the disease and the need of staying active. Gait and balance exercises will be used to lessen your dizzy sensations, and habituation activities will be performed to reduce your chance of falling.
      • Exercises are not performed during an acute attack but are gradually resumed when it ends.
      • The therapist may provide you with a list of typical triggers that you might use to decrease or avoid the intensity or frequency of spells.

    It is important to note that as with any sort of migraine, home remedies such as essential oils and herbal mixes are not supported by science and are unlikely to provide the relief you seek. Only a doctor can properly diagnose and treat your vestibular migraines.

    The advantages of vestibular migraine treatment are dependent on your unique circumstances. During your session, your consultant will go over these with you. Medication for vestibular migraines should assist to eliminate the main symptoms. This should greatly improve your quality of life.

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    Medically Reviewed on 3/24/2022


    Image Source: iStock Images

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