Vestibular migraine

Thomas Lempert MD (Dr. Lempert of Charité University Hospital has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Michael von Brevern MD (

Dr. von Brevern of Charité University Hospital has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Douglas J Lanska MD FAAN MS MSPH, editor. (

Dr. Lanska of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and IM Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Originally released September 30, 2013; last updated June 22, 2020; expires June 22, 2023

This article includes discussion of vestibular migraine, benign recurrent vertigo, migrainous vertigo, migraine-associated vertigo, migraine-associated dizziness, and migraine-related vestibulopathy. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.


Vestibular migraine presents with attacks of spontaneous or positional vertigo, head motion–induced vertigo, and visual vertigo lasting 5 minutes to 3 days. The diagnosis requires a history of migraine, temporal association of migraine symptoms with vertigo attacks, and exclusion of other causes. Because headache is often absent during acute attacks, other migraine features such as photophobia or auras have to be specifically inquired about. The pathophysiology of vestibular migraine is unknown, but several mechanisms link the trigeminal system, which is activated during migraine attacks, and the vestibular system. Treatment includes antiemetics for severe acute attacks, pharmacological migraine prophylaxis, and lifestyle changes.

Key points


• Vestibular migraine is the most common cause of spontaneous recurrent vertigo.


• Diagnostic criteria have been developed by an international group of headache and dizziness experts.


• Vestibular findings during the asymptomatic interval are usually mild and nonspecific.


• As high-quality therapeutic trials are lacking, treatment is targeted at the underlying migraine.

Historical note and terminology

The combination of headache, vertigo, nausea, and visual disturbances was described by the Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia almost 2000 years ago (Huppert and Brandt 2017). That migraine may present with attacks of vertigo has been recognized from the early days of neurology (Liveing 1873). Starting with Kayan and Hood's classical paper, the clinical features of vestibular migraine have been well elucidated in several large case series (Kayan and Hood 1984; Cutrer and Baloh 1992; Cass et al 1997; Dieterich and Brandt 1999; Neuhauser et al 2001). Various terms have been used to designate vertigo caused by a migraine mechanism, including “migraine-associated vertigo,” “migraine-associated dizziness,” “migraine-related vestibulopathy,” “migrainous vertigo,” and “benign recurrent vertigo.” “Vestibular migraine” has been convincingly advocated as a term that stresses the particular vestibular manifestation of migraine and, thus, best avoids confounding with nonvestibular dizziness associated with migraine. Therefore, the International Headache Society and the Bárány Society, which represents the international neurootological community, have opted for the term “vestibular migraine” in their consensus paper on the classification of the disorder (Lempert et al 2012).

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