Vestibular migraines, also known specifically as a migraine-related vestibulopathy, is a balance disorder brought on by a migraine. Vestibular migraines have as their major characteristics a specific set of symptoms that can either be the sole symptoms of a migraine or can accompany other, non-balance-related migraine symptoms.
Vestibular migraines affect the proper functioning of the body's vestibular system, the system responsible for governing balance and the ability to perceive spatial movement. The vestibular system consists of the organs of the inner ear and the portions of the brain involved in maintaining the body's equilibrium. The exact cause of vestibular migraines are not known, but researchers believe that the cause lies in the overstimulation of the nerves associated with the inner ear and the balance-maintaining portions of the brain.
Vertigo is the most common symptom associated with vestibular migraines. Vertigo is a dizzy sensation that makes the individual feel as if she is moving or spinning even when she is stationary. The sensation commonly causes extreme nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, and difficulty keeping your balance. Vertigo during episodes of vestibular migraines can be accompanied by other migraine symptoms or can be the sole symptom.
Vestibular migraines can also cause a number of visual disturbances, including auras and extreme light sensitivity. Migraine auras occur when the individual sees unusual bright lights, spots, lines, or distortions shortly before or during a migraine episode. Some migraine sufferers experience auras that obscure their vision with spots or darkness; others experience tunnel or curved vision.
Vestibular migraine sufferers can also experience severe auditory problems during the migraine. These problems include sound senstivity (also known as hyperacusis), episodic tinnitus and even temporary hearing loss. Tinnitus experienced during a vestibular migraine is often perceived as a persistent ringing, humming or buzzing.
While vertigo in vestibular migraine patients is not related to movement and occurs even when the individual is stationary, severe motion sickness is also a common symptom during a vestibular migraine episode. In these instances, the individual will suffer from greatly increased nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and vomiting when moving, especially when moving the head.