Key Points about Vestibular Migraine

  • While a vestibular migraine can affect anyone, females between the ages of 20 and 40 are the patients most often seen with the condition.
  • Vestibular migraines are debilitating headaches that cause dizziness and balance problems.
  • Treatment of vestibular migraines involves a combination of medications, lifestyle modifications and vestibular therapy.
Common related conditions
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A migraine is a debilitating headache that is characterized by such intense pain that it interferes with a person’s ability to go about their daily life. About 40 percent of people who experience migraines also experience vestibular symptoms, which include trouble keeping their balance or feelings of dizziness. 

Vestibular migraine causes 

Vestibular migraines can be caused – or triggered – by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Environmental triggers
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Weather changes (barometric-pressure variations)
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Sleep disturbances

Food triggers like:

  • Aged or ripened cheese
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Certain fruits, such as avocados, raisins, passion fruit, banana and citrus fruit
  • Chocolate, cocoa or carob
  • Fermented food such as any that are pickled or marinated
  • Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Pea pods and bean pods
  • Smoked, cured or processed meats
  • Sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk
  • Tea, coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • Yeast breads

Vestibular migraine risk factors

You are at an increased risk for developing a vestibular migraine if you are female between the ages of 20 and 40.

Vestibular migraine symptoms

Signs and symptoms of vestibular migraines include:

  • Feeling of dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain across the entire head
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Severe pain that worsens over time
  • Throbbing or pounding pain
  • Trouble completing daily tasks due to intense pain
  • Trouble keeping your balance

Vestibular migraine diagnosis

Your neurologist may use one or more of the following diagnostic tools to diagnose Parkinson’s:

Physical examination. Your neurologist will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking questions about your health history.

Audiological and vestibular-function tests. Your neurologist may use a combination of specialized tests – such as positional testing, oculomotor and vestibule-ocular reflex assessment or rotational chair testing – to help diagnose your vestibular migraine.

Imaging tests. Your specialist may order imaging tests – such as a brain ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan – to help diagnose your vestibular migraines and rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Vestibular migraine treatment

Treatment for vestibular migraines can include:

Medicines. Your neurologist may prescribe one or more medications that can help reduce vestibular migraine symptoms. Certain medications can help prevent migraines from occurring, while others can reduce a migraine that you are already experiencing.

Diet modifications. Your specialist may recommend you avoid certain foods that can trigger migraines.

Vestibular rehabilitation. Your neurologist may recommend you work with a vestibular rehabilitation therapist to help you learn strategies to cope with your symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications. Your specialist will recommend you get enough sleep, take measures to reduce the stress in your daily life and get regular exercise.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a neurologist for more specialized treatment.