Dizziness and vertigo are two other challenging migraine symptoms. Like visual disturbances, fatigue and brain fog, dizziness or vertigo may be an early warning sign that an attack is starting. They may start prior to the onset of head pain, but some people may also have these symptoms with no head pain at all, and they can be disabling. Those who experience dizziness and vertigo frequently may be diagnosed with vestibular migraine.
What do dizziness and vertigo feel like?
Dizziness and vestibular symptoms vary in intensity. You may feel light-headed, faint or unsteady, or have extreme vertigo with spinning, swaying, loss of balance and an intense sensitivity to motion or movement. These symptoms can last for just a few seconds, hours or even days. Those with vestibular migraine may also experience nausea and/or vomiting, visual aura, and sensitivity to light, smell and noise.
Managing dizziness and vertigo
If you experience migraine-related dizziness or vertigo you should talk to your doctor as they will be able to work with you on a plan for best treating your symptoms. There are certain criteria that can determine a vestibular migraine diagnosis. Your doctor may also want you to see an ENT to rule out other vestibular disorders such as Meniere’s Disease. These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions such as low blood pressure, anxiety and hypoglycemia. If your dizziness or vertigo is regular, severe and/or causing a significant disruption to your life, your doctor may recommend vestibular rehabilitation therapy, which can improve balance.
Vestibular symptoms can be extremely debilitating, alarming and uncomfortable. Building a personal migraine treatment toolbox can help. Consider including a combination of the following:
- Ask your doctor which migraine medications—both preventive and abortive—may work best for you
- Try a medical device for migraine
- Reduce stress
- Get regular exercise
- Try meditation and/or biofeedback therapy
- Stay hydrated
- Be sure you’re getting enough quality sleep
- Eat regularly and don’t skip meals
- Avoid your usual migraine triggers
Because dizziness and vestibular symptoms can be so incapacitating, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. When dizziness strikes, try to stay calm. Take a quick assessment of your responsibilities. Do you have to work, drive, or take care of children? Are you able to ask for help or make other arrangements? Having a plan in place before these symptoms come on can make it easier to manage them.