A migraine is a neurological condition often described as a really bad headache, but it can have other symptoms as well. Migraines are more common in women than in men, but anyone can get them and they tend to run in families. For decades researchers have worked to understand what causes migraines.

Doctors once thought that the vessel dilation people experience during an episode was causing the pain. They now believe that migraines are a result of an abnormal stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is responsible for warning your brain with pain signals when something is harming your face. A migraine headache may be an overreaction on the part of this nerve.

Even if a neurological abnormality is causing the migraine, the headache itself appears to alter the chemistry of the brain.

Symptoms of a Migraine

Woman holding her head because she has a migraine.

If your doctor has never diagnosed you with migraines, you may not be sure if you have them. Most people with migraines experience debilitating pain on one side of the head, though it can occur on both sides. They may also experience dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. Migraine symptoms can also include fatigue, difficulty speaking, irritability and other mood changes.

Some people experience migraines without pain in their head. These are sometimes called “silent” migraines. Retinal migraines, for example, affect your vision and vestibular migraines affect your balance. Migraines with “aura” include symptoms such as flashes of light, visual disturbances, or tingling sensations.

What Does a Vestibular Migraine Feel Like?

Vestibular migraines are related to the inner ear, which helps us maintain our balance. A vestibular migraine causes dizziness or vertigo and may not occur with pain in the head. People with these migraines may have difficulty with their balance, or feel like they are rocking in a boat.

Watch for These Related Hearing Problems if You Have Migraines

If you have a history of migraines, research shows that you may be at risk of developing certain hearing problems related to the inner ear. While the research has yet to establish a specific causal link between migraines and hearing problems, it did show a clear rise in inner ear-related hearing loss in those who had a history of migraines versus those who did not. Researchers have found that people who have a history of migraines are also three times more likely to have tinnitus, and have a higher incidence of sudden deafness.

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