“Dizziness = migraine”: a true equation?

Vertigo (when your head spins) can be a sign of a migraine disorder, but misdiagnosis is common and few people are aware of the connection.

A 2018 study by Formeister al. found that only 10% of people with the condition are given the right diagnosis. Around one percent of the population has a condition called vestibular migraine. The episodes of vertigo (not to be confused with aura) may not occur until several years after the first headache.

Vestibular migraine is a medical condition

People with vestibular migraine report similar triggers for headache and vertigo. The vertigo often happens without an accompanying headache. Sitting up, lying down, looking up, bending over can all make the dizzy sensation worse. Vertigo may be rotational (like getting off a roundabout), swaying (like being on board a ship) or make you unsteady on your feet. Some people report feeling "drunk," "seasick," or like they just got off a roller coaster.

The dizzy sensation may last anything from a few minutes to a few hours – or even several days. One in ten people with the condition have vertigo all the time.

Medical assistance required

Examination by a neurologist and ear, nose and throat specialist is essential, if only to make sure that your symptoms are not due to a life-threatening disease. Vertigo may also be caused by another form of migraine disorder, but in those cases there would be additional symptoms such as speech disorders.

  • References
    • Formeister EJ, Rizk HG, Kohn MA, Sharon JD. The Epidemiology of Vestibular Migraine: A Population-based Survey Study. Otol Neurotol. 2018 Sep;39(8):1037-1044. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000001900.