June is national migraine and headache awareness month. The World Health Organization classifies migraine attacks as a significant disabling condition, comparable to depression or dementia. Migraine is typically described as head pain with throbbing or pounding, light and sound sensitivity, and nausea/vomiting. Headaches may sometimes be accompanied with a visual aura, or an electrical or chemical wave that moves through the visual cortex. Often people describe this as bright lights or flashes and sometimes with geometric patterns. Migraines can even cause dizziness and vestibular dysfunction. Approximately 40% of migraine patients have some accompanying syndrome involving balance issues and/or dizziness.
Common symptoms of a vestibular migraine include light and sound sensitivity, spontaneous vertigo attacks, motion intolerance, tinnitus, balance loss, neck pain, visual disorientation, and anxiety/panic. A vestibular migraine can often be caused by similar things that can cause a traditional migraine which include weather changes/ barometric-pressure variations, hormonal fluctuations, stress, lack of sleep, and diet.
The rise of imaging studies has provided us with more information on the mechanism of migraines; however, their exact cause is still not completely understood. Migraines are caused by a combination of vascular and neural processes. Migraines begin with the spontaneous spreading of an electrical charge across the cortex. This causes activation of pain receptors located in the brainstem. The release of these receptors then causes the dilation of blood vessels near the scalp. Treatment of vestibular migraines includes a combination of medications, vestibular rehabilitation, and lifestyle modification that include limitations of the risk factors associated with migraine.
If you or someone you know has migraine associated vertigo, call or schedule an appointment today to discuss your options. A list of events can be found here for recognition of Migraine & Headache Awareness Month.