Symptoms of a Vestibular Migraine

By Corey M. Mackenzie

  • Overview

    Migraines cause many symptoms other than pain. In fact, people who suffer from vestibular migraines sometimes don't experience the classic headache at all. What they do experience is extreme vertigo and sometimes nausea, visual disturbances, feelings of pressure in the ear and tinnitus. These symptoms can last just a few hours, a few days, or can even be chronic.
  • Features

    Located near the inner ear, the vestibular system is what helps you keep balance. It aids in simple tasks such as walking. When something goes awry with this system, whether due to pressure from fluid buildup in the ear, illness or injury, you will experience dizziness, nausea, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Migraines are called vestibular migraines if these symptoms are present, preceding a headache, during a headache or, in some cases, even in the absence of the usual migraine headache.
  • Symptoms

    The main symptoms of vestibular migraine are extreme dizziness and the accompanying nausea, like the nausea that occurs during motion sickness. Other symptoms may include poor coordination, blurred vision or flashing spots in front of the eyes and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Some sufferers also get headaches, but many only get the vestibular symptoms and other migraine-related related sensations (odd tastes, smells, and/or the sensation of fullness in the head, for example).

  • Prevention/Solution

    According to Johns Hopkins neurology department, vestibular migraine suffers should avoid foods that can bring on migraines. These foods include chocolate, cheese, caffeine wine, and soy products. In addition to dietary changes, regular exercise, weight loss, and more sleep may also prevent vestibular migraines. Doctors can prescribe medicines, such as beta blockers, to prevent migraines, or Valium and Dramamine to ease nausea and dizziness.
  • Warning

    Other diseases and conditions, including viral illnesses, stroke and Meniere's disease, cause symptoms similar to vestibular migraines. See a physician for a diagnosis to rule out other possible causes. Because extreme dizziness often occurs with these migraines, you should avoid driving and other potentially dangerous activities until all migraine symptoms have ceased.
  • Considerations

    The pressure associated with migraine headache is sometimes confused with sinus congestion. If you experience this frequently, seek a diagnosis so that you will get the appropriate treatment. Using over-the-counter medicines may only provide temporary relief and will not prevent future episodes.
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