I want to talk a little about my experiences with vestibular migraines that have plagued me since 2010. Prior to that I only had vertigo episodically, related to a migraines or the motion of a boat or airplane. Vestibular migraines used to go under the name Migraine Associated Vertigo. It is a type of migraine that may or may not include the headache phase but does cause problems with the ears, vision and balance. It can cause tinnitus for example, the ringing in the ears. And is a common cause of vertigo. The vertigo may be prior to, during, after or complete separate from the migraine attack.
Vestibular and Hearing Symptoms:
- Extreme sensitivity to motion
- Muffled hearing
- Ear fullness
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
Since vertigo can be caused by more than a few things it is important a neurologist exclude other causes such as:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Ménierès Disease
- Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or small strokes
- Fluid leaks in the inner ear
- Vestibular nerve irritation
The treatment involves preventatives that are specifically looked at to help with vertigo. For myself I have tried two calcium channel blockers and Topamax; one of the calcium channel blockers does a moderate job of reducing the vertigo. As long as I avoid All motion triggers that is. Like drive nowhere, ever. I have heard some people have been effectively managed with one medication. I on the other hand find this a very complication condition to treat. And a very troublesome set of symptoms to cope with.
“The clinical presentation of vestibular symptoms that often correlate with migraine includes—but is not limited to—dizziness; motion intolerance with respect to head, eyes, and/or body; spontaneous vertigo attacks (often accompanied by nausea and vomiting); diminished eye focus with photosensitivity; sound sensitivity and tinnitus; balance loss and ataxia; cervicalgia (neck pain) with associated muscle spasms in the upper cervical spine musculature; confusion with altered cognition; spatial disorientation; and anxiety/panic.” (Vestibular Disorders Association: http://vestibular.org).
My vertigo began as I said in 2010 with an abrupt two week long bout of ground instability and drop attacks. It started of severe in intensity and slowly went down to moderate and then tapered off. It stayed in the mild intensity after for quite some time. Then things like driving, going on a boat, train, airplane, amusement park ride or anything that caused too much motion would jump it in severity. Elevators and escalators included in that.
It would also crop up any time it pleased, migraine or not, at any severity all on its own. The worst being the drop attacks. I would be walking, minding my own business, then the ground beneath one of my feet would just be Gone and I would lurch to the side… either falling, or slamming into doorways and walls. The next down is the moosh ground effect. Where it feels like the ground is unstable. Every step you take your feet sink into the ground and it feel utterly unstable to walk on. At its most severe very hard to walk. At its most mild, just feels mooshy. Then there is the sensation of motion when you are still. You can be sitting a feel motion and your body tries to compensate by moving you to where it thinks you should be, causing you to rock. You can rock right off a chair that way. Then there is the internal vertigo spins, where you feel the world spinning in your head. The exact opposite is the external spins, when you move your head the whole world whirls around you.It can cause confusion and you can have a hard time with special orientation. It can be very disorientating. It can also make it difficult to track motion.
One disturbing thing about vertigo is that a bout can last hours, days, weeks or even months. You just never know how long a bout will last or how to get it to stop. And you never really know the severity of it.
It is worthwhile to get it checked out though. My doctor said my vertigo presents as Ménierès Disease, due to the similarity in symptoms. Since they are treated differently and affect different areas it is important to know which type of vertigo you are dealing with. It should also be pointed out that the vertigo can be debilitating in some people. When it is severe and long lasting it is extremely difficult to function with.