The Relationship Between Migraine and Vertigo: Exploring Vestibular Migraine Attacks

The Relationship Between Migraine and Vertigo: Exploring Vestibular Migraine Attacks


As someone who has personally experienced both migraine attacks and vertigo, I understand the importance of understanding the relationship between these two conditions. Migraine Attacks and vertigo can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and daily functioning. In this article, we will dive deep into vestibular migraine attacks, exploring their definition, symptoms, underlying mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment options, and coping strategies. By gaining a better understanding of vestibular migraine attacks, we hope to provide valuable insights for those seeking answers and support.

What are Vestibular Migraine Attacks?

Vestibular migraine attacks are a specific type of migraine that involves both migraine attacks and vestibular symptoms. These symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, and imbalance. What sets vestibular migraine attacks apart from other types of migraine attacks is the prominence of these symptoms. In fact, some individuals may experience vertigo without the typical headache associated with migraine attacks. Vestibular migraine attacks are more common in women, and they tend to peak between the ages of 20 and 40.

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraine Attacks

Dizziness and Vertigo

One of the hallmark symptoms of vestibular migraine attacks is dizziness and vertigo. Individuals with vestibular migraine attacks may experience a spinning or whirling sensation, a loss of balance, or a feeling of being unsteady on their feet. Personally, during my migraine attacks, I often feel as if the world around me is spinning, making it challenging to perform even simple tasks. The frequency and intensity of vertigo episodes can vary from person to person.

It’s important to note that vertigo is commonly associated with other migraine symptoms such as headache, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms often occur simultaneously, creating a challenging and overwhelming experience for those affected.


Another characteristic of vestibular migraine attacks is the presence of aura. Aura refers to a set of neurological symptoms that can occur before or during a migraine attack. Visual disturbances are common, such as seeing flashes of light, blind spots, or zigzag patterns. Sensory changes, including tingling or numbness in the face or hands, may also accompany vestibular migraine attacks. Additionally, some individuals may experience difficulties with language and speech, finding it hard to find the right words or articulate their thoughts clearly.

Understanding the Underlying Mechanisms

Role of the Vestibular System

The vestibular system is responsible for our sense of balance and spatial orientation. It is located within the inner ear and consists of structures known as the semicircular canals and otolith organs, which detect changes in head position and movement. In individuals with vestibular migraine attacks, it is believed that the migraine process affects the function of the vestibular system, leading to the characteristic dizziness and vertigo.

Triggers and Trigger Management

Vestibular migraine attacks, like other types of migraine attacks, can be triggered by various factors. These triggers can be different for each individual. Personally, I have found that stress, certain foods, changes in weather, and hormonal fluctuations can trigger my vestibular migraine attacks. It is crucial to identify and manage these triggers to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Some common triggers for vestibular migraine attacks include:

  • Bright lights or flickering lights
  • Loud noises
  • Strong smells
  • Certain foods and beverages
  • Lack of sleep or changes in sleep patterns

By keeping a migraine journal and noting potential triggers, individuals can develop strategies for avoiding or minimizing exposure to these triggers. This can be a helpful step in managing vestibular migraine attacks.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Challenges in Diagnosing Vestibular Migraine Attacks

Diagnosing vestibular migraine attacks can be challenging due to the overlapping symptoms with other vestibular disorders. Many healthcare professionals may not be fully aware of vestibular migraine attacks and their unique characteristics. It is essential for individuals experiencing vestibular symptoms to seek medical help from healthcare providers specializing in neurology or otolaryngology.

Diagnostic Tests

To diagnose vestibular migraine attacks, several diagnostic tests may be conducted. Personally, I have undergone vestibular function tests, including the caloric test and video nystagmography, which assess the function of the inner ear. Neuroimaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may also be used to rule out other potential causes of vestibular symptoms.

Medications for Managing Vestibular Migraine Attacks

Treatment options for vestibular migraine attacks typically involve both preventive medications and acute treatments. Preventive medications aim to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Some commonly prescribed preventive medications for vestibular migraine attacks include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and certain antidepressants.

During acute migraine attacks, medications such as triptans and anti-nausea medications can provide relief. It is crucial to work closely with healthcare providers to find the most appropriate medication regimen to manage vestibular migraine attacks effectively.

Coping Strategies for Living with Vestibular Migraine Attacks

Lifestyle Modifications

If you are living with vestibular migraine attacks, making certain lifestyle modifications can help manage your symptoms. Personally, I have found that managing stress levels, maintaining regular sleep patterns, engaging in regular exercise, and making dietary adjustments can all contribute to managing vestibular migraine attacks.

Support Networks and Resources

Living with vestibular migraine attacks can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Building a support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals who understand and empathize with your experiences can provide much-needed support. Online communities and forums dedicated to migraine attacks and vestibular disorders are also valuable resources for connecting with others who share similar experiences and learning coping strategies.


Vestibular migraine attacks represent a complex and often misunderstood condition. By exploring the relationship between migraine attacks and vertigo, we have gained insights into vestibular migraine attacks’ definition, symptoms, underlying mechanisms, diagnosis, treatment options, and coping strategies. Seeking medical help from knowledgeable healthcare providers and implementing appropriate lifestyle modifications and treatments can help individuals with vestibular migraine attacks manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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