Migraine-Associated Vertigo

Why Do I Get Dizzy When I Have a Migraine?

Migraine-Associated VertigoChronic migraines are extremely difficult to deal with, and for some, these problems can severely impact one’s livelihood. Those with migraines often have to limit their travel, physical activity, alcohol intake, and closely monitor their diets.

Migraines often occur in stages, with the first starting several hours or even days before the pain starts. Deep in the throes of a migraine, sufferers feel the following:

  • Severe headache
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, or touch
  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs
  • Changes in vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness

Up to 1 in 3 people who suffer from migraines also report feelings of vertigo. If you feel dizzy or off-balance during a migraine spell, you have what is often called vestibular migraine, basilar-type migraine, or migraine-associated vertigo.

Those who have migraines rarely experience vertigo during the first few occurrences, as vertigo tends to set in several years into someone’s experience with migraines.

When a migraine occurs in tandem with vertigo, then the spell becomes much more dangerous. Feeling unsteady on your feet can impact your safety at work, while driving, or while walking around. Our ENT doctor strongly suggests those with migraine-related headaches who have experienced vertigo in the past lie down when their symptoms start; fainting is not uncommon during these spells.

Vertigo makes it seem like the room is spinning, so your migraine may make you unsteady on your feet. Oftentimes, the vertigo can set in before the headache, so you start to feel dizzy without experiencing the other migraine symptoms.

What Causes Vertigo During a Migraine?

The sensations of vertigo are actually related to your inner ear, so some people who have vertigo will also have other ear issues during migraine spells. These can be sound sensitivity or ringing in the ears.

The most common category of migraine to cause vertigo is a basilar-type migraine, and you’ll also have difficulty controlling your limbs as well as hearing loss and ringing in the ears.

Some people who have migraine-related vertigo don’t get this symptom until several years after their headache episodes begin.

So why do you get dizzy during a migraine? Doctors are not completely sure what causes these disorders to occur in tandem. Patients with migraines often experience other conditions that cause vertigo, like low blood pressure and anxiety.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, and vertigo have similar triggers, such as:

  • Certain smells
  • Specific foods
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Alcohol use
  • Hormonal changes
  • Physical activity
  • Sinus infections
  • Dehydration

If you get dizzy during your migraines, it’s important to speak to a doctor for vertigo to try to hone in on what causes this. In some cases, our vertigo doctors find that treating some of these symptoms can severely decrease vertigo and migraines.

Treatments for Migraines

Migraines are something people often struggle with for the rest of their lives, so it’s a good idea to start seeing a doctor for migraines for an annual checkup to try to treat it as best you can.

Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen and Tylenol can often help, but some patients require prescription migraine medication, like:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Mazalt
  • Reyvow
  • Nurtec
  • Verapamil

Some ENT specialists will also suggest lifestyle changes to try to lower the frequency at which you have migraine-related vertigo. The most common lifestyle changes are to stop smoking, lower stress, exercise regularly, and avoid your trigger foods.

Holistic remedies like massage therapy and acupuncture have also been shown to reduce migraines.

Contacting a Doctor 

If you suffer from migraines and/or vertigo, you should have a doctor on hand. The ENT specialists at our Los Angeles office for ear, nose, and throat issues are highly trained and skilled experts. Our doctors are world-class and can help you find relief from your symptoms.

We are also trained in treating other ear, nose, and throat issues, like:

  • Ear infections
  • Acid reflux
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sinus congestion

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