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HeadWay, Issue #126 -- Vertigo and Dizziness - is it Migraine?
January 21, 2015

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In this issue:

Vertigo and Dizziness - is it Migraine?

Recent Don't-Miss Articles

Say what?!  Benign

Vertigo and Dizziness

Just what do vertigo and/or dizziness have to do with migraine? A lot - a large percentage of migraine patients also get symptoms of dizziness and/or vertigo during an attack.

I've gotten a couple of questions recently about vertigo and dizziness, so let's take a few minutes to unravel the mystery (thank you, Carolyn, for the most recent reminder to talk about this!).

First, what exactly is the difference between dizziness and vertigo?

Dizziness may be a general term referring either to lightheadedness or vertigo, but usually it refers more to feeling lightheaded. You feel like you may lose your balance. Or you may feel unsteady when you walk (disequilibrium).

Vertigo, on the other hand, is something very specific. If you feel a spinning sensation, or it seems like the room is moving around (when you're not moving), or you feel like you're tilting or falling, that's vertigo.

If dizziness or vertigo occur along with other migraine symptoms, and disappear afterwards, there's a good chance it's another symptom that will go away once your migraine is successfully treated (yes, there is hope!).

I did get a couple questions about benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), so let's talk about that first. BPPV is the most common type of vertigo. It can be mild or severe.

Now anytime you get new and severe symptoms of vertigo, it's time to see a doctor, because it could be a sign of something very serious.

However, if you do have BPPV, it's possible that it could be treated simply at home.

BPPV occurs when crystals of calcium carbonate come loose in an ear canal. When they clump together, they can send false signals to the brain - causing vertigo.

To treat BPPV, manoeuvres are used to move the tiny particles (otoconia) out of the canal. Some manoeuvres can be done at home (see resources below). If these don't work, there are other manoeuvres that can be done at your doctor's office.

How do you know what type of vertigo you're experiencing, and what the cause is?

Remember that the vertigo may come from more than one source. In other words, you could have vertigo from migraine and from BPPV.

However, if the vertigo is temporary, and coincides with other migraine symptoms, chances are it's related to migraine.

Vertigo may be a part of various types of migraine. Migraine associated vertigo (MAV) or vestibular migraine both refer to symptoms - they are not official types of migraine. Vertigo may be a sign of hemiplegic migraine, migraine with aura (including aura without headache), or migraine with brainstem aura.

If the vertigo is accompanied by hearing loss or tinnitus, you may have Ménière's Disease.

If you have migraine and vertigo, watch the symptoms carefully. What symptoms go together? How long do they last? What does the vertigo feel like? How often does it happen? Your doctor will be able to diagnose you more accurately if she knows the details.

Here are some more resources to check out. The first two are treatment videos for BPPV. Yes, they are completely different - there are various ways to treat BPPV. The first is more simple, the second more thorough and traditional.

Recent Don't-Miss Articles

A few recent articles at Headache and Migraine News that you'll want to check out:

Say what?!  Benign

So if I'm feeling sick and can't stand up, why is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo "benign"? Doesn't sound benign to me!

Benign can have somewhat different meanings depending on the medical condition. For example, if a tumour is "benign" it's not spreading quickly and destroying nearby tissue. Still depending on it's location, a "benign" tumour can be a serious condition.

You might also say that "benign" conditions aren't going to cause other conditions. Sometimes it means that it won't recur - it's a one-time thing. If it isn't treated, in most cases a benign condition will not become life-threatening on its own.

But a "benign" condition can be very disabling, and cause major problems in your life.

For lots more on the word, check out benign in the Free Dictionary.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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