There are a multitude of migraine side effects, with each sufferer having a slightly different experience. All these different experiences make migraine a complex condition, and hard to treat. Some people experience early warning signals, such as an aura causing a visual disturbance, feeling nauseous, or dizzy. Others experience a hammering pain that makes it impossible to carry on with life as normal.
Vertigo and Dizziness
A sensation of dizziness, or in some cases full-blown vertigo, is experienced by three-quarters of migraineurs, despite the International Headache Society not including it as a symptom, except in cases of basilar migraine. The general lack of recognition of vertigo as a symptom makes getting a correct diagnosis difficult.
A neurological disorder, migraine is believed to have roots in genetic inheritance. From the many possible triggers, a sequence of events is set in motion that culminates in intense pain that can last for hours or days at a time.
The sequence of events includes changes in the trigeminal nerve along with an imbalance in brain chemicals. Dizziness from migraine is common amongst women sufferers, and is likely to develop later than the onset of migraine episodes.
Hormonal changes can affect dizziness levels, such as those that happen during menstruation, pregnancy or around the menopause. In some women, the headache pain is replaced by vertigo. People who suffer from migraine with aura are most likely to also experience dizziness, which could be accompanied by a hearing loss or ringing in the ears and sometimes coordination difficulties.
As with other aspects of migraine, feelings of dizziness can last from just a few seconds to several days. Severity can also differ, ranging from an uncomfortable feeling of something not being quite right, to general unsteadiness or lightheadedness, right up to full-blown vertigo in which you feel the world is spinning.
Diagnosis of Migraine Vertigo
When diagnosing migraine vertigo, specialists will look into your personal or genetic history. You may, for instance, have a personal history of motion sickness, accompanied by feelings of nausea that can also be brought on in visually challenging situations. Examples include walking through a shopping mall which exaggerates the perception of movement in the peripheral vision and directly overhead, causing an uncomfortable feeling of instability or dizziness.
The criteria for diagnosis specifies that other causes of dizziness or vertigo are ruled out through appropriate investigation. Migraine -related dizziness may not be accompanied by pain, although the onset of dizziness may be an early warning sign of a migraine episode. Analysis of the patient’s history, along with having traditional migraine risk factors, is the normal route to diagnosis.
Today’s lifestyle dictates that many of us spend extended hours looking at backlit screens of one form or another. If were not working at the computer, we’re looking at smart phones, and if we’re not doing that we’re watching TV. Computer and other screens can cause digital eye fatigue and the following associated symptoms:
- Neck or back pain
- Tired eyes
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Difficulty in focusing or concentrating
Research published by Harvard scientists in 2010 discovered a visual pathway linking migraine and sensitivity to light. Light sensitivity is a common migraine trigger, with flickering or bright screens playing a significant part in aggravating vestibular disorders that provoke dizziness, and lead to headaches.
For many of us, avoiding screens is not an option. Instead, coping mechanisms are needed to minimize the health dangers faced at work or leisure.
Coping at Work
You can adopt strategies if you find dizziness at work is a problem:
- Avoid screen animations. If possible, block animated flashing advertisements when browsing the Internet. Even simple measures such as changing a flashing cursor to a static one can help.
- Avoid screen glare. If possible, change the position of your computer screen so there is no glare or reflection from the window. Another tactic is to reduce the brightness as far as possible while maintaining legibility.
- Make sure you are seated comfortably. Adjust the height of furniture so you can reach the floor with your feet while sitting up straight.
- Try migraine computer glasses. These absorb blue and red light, and can be made to your prescription if you wear eyeglasses, or as clip-ons.
- Take frequent breaks. Even if you can’t get up from the computer and walk around, give your eyes a rest by looking away from the screen into the distance.
Treatments for Vertigo
Medications for migraine have little effect on dizziness or vertigo, so the best treatment is prevention. You could for instance, add dizziness episodes to your migraine diary to learn if anything specific triggers vertigo sensations. If it does, try lifestyle or situational changes to avoid these in future.
Often, just knowing what is causing the symptom is reassuring and can assist with future management.