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Vestibular Migraine

How to Sort it Out and What to Do About it

Beh, Shin C. MD

Section Editor(s): Digre, Kathleen B. MD; Friedman, Deborah I. MD, MPH

Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology: June 2019 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - p 208–219
doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000000791
Disease of the Year: Migraine

Background: Vestibular migraine (VM) is the most common neurologic cause of vertigo in adults and results in significant utilization of health care resources, but remains under-recognized and underdiagnosed.

Evidence Acquisition: Review of literature in PubMed using the following terms: vestibular migraine, migraine-associated vertigo, vertiginous migraine, benign recurrent vertigo, migraine-associated dizziness, migraine, migraine treatment, Meniere disease (MD), vertebrobasilar ischemia (VBI), posterior circulation stroke, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, and episodic-ataxia Type 2 (EA2).

Results: VM can manifest with a variety of vestibular symptoms, including spontaneous vertigo, triggered vertigo, positional vertigo, and head-motion dizziness. Patients may report more than 1 vestibular symptom. Episodes of vertigo are often, but not always, accompanied by headache. Auditory symptoms are frequently associated with VM attacks and may mimic the manifestations of MD. Other migrainous features that accompany VM attacks include photophobia, phonophobia, osmophobia, and visual aura. Interictally, patients may suffer from persistent dizziness or isolated paroxysmal vestibular symptoms. Mood disorders (particularly anxiety) are often found in VM. Abnormal neuro-otologic findings are not uncommon in patients with VM. Differential diagnoses for VM include MD, VBI, EA2, and migraine with brainstem aura. For rescue treatment, triptans, vestibular suppressants, and/or antiemetic agents may be considered. Pharmacologic migraine preventives (antiepileptics, beta-blockers, and antidepressants) are often useful.

Conclusions: The keys to correctly diagnosing VM is identifying a relationship between vestibular symptoms and migrainous features and being aware of the heterogeneity of manifestations of this enigmatic, but treatable, condition. The principles of treatment of VM include rescue therapy, lifestyle modification, nonpharmacologic migraine preventives, pharmacologic migraine prophylaxis, and treatment of comorbidities.

Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics (SCB), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.

Address correspondence to Shin C. Beh, MD, Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, UT Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390; E-mail:

The author reports no conflicts of interest.

© 2019 by North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society