Clinical Features, Familial History, and Migraine Precursors in Patients With Definite Vestibular Migraine: The VM-Phenotypes Projects



The aim of this work was to assess through a questionnaire the features of vertiginous episodes, accompanying symptoms, familial history, and migraine precursors in a sample of 252 subjects with a diagnosis of definite vestibular migraine.


Migraine is a common neurological disorder characterized by episodic headaches with specific features. About two-thirds of cases run in families, and patients may refer symptoms occurring in infancy and childhood, defined as episodic syndromes that may be associated with migraine. Migraine is associated with episodic vertigo, called vestibular migraine, whose diagnosis mainly relies on clinical history showing a temporary association of symptoms.


In this cross-sectional multicentric study, 252 subjects were recruited in different centers; a senior specialist through a structured questionnaire assessed features of vestibular symptoms and accompanying symptoms.


The age of onset of migraine was 23 years, while onset of vertigo was at 38 years. One hundred and eighty-four subjects reported internal vertigo (73%), while 63 subjects (25%) reported external vertigo. The duration of vertigo attacks was less than 5 minutes in 58 subjects (23%), between 6 and 60 minutes in 55 (21.8%), between 1 and 4 hours in 29 (11.5%), 5 and 24 hours in 44 (17.5%), up to 3 days in 14 (5.5%), and more than 3 days in seven (2.8%); 14 subjects (5.5%) referred attacks lasting from less than 5 minutes and up to 1 hour, nine (3.6%) referred attacks lasting from less than 5 minutes and up to 1 to 4 hours, six (2.4%) referred attacks lasting from less than 5 minutes and up to 5 to 24 hours, and five (2%) cases referred attacks lasting from less than 5 minutes and up to days. Among accompanying symptoms, patients referred the following usually occurring, in order of frequency: nausea (59.9%), photophobia (44.4%), phonophobia (38.9%), vomiting (17.8%), palpitations (11.5%), tinnitus (10.7%), fullness of the ear (8.7%), and hearing loss (4%). In total, 177 subjects referred a positive family history of migraine (70.2%), while 167 (66.3%) reported a positive family history of vertigo. In the sample, 69% of patients referred at least one of the pediatric precursors, in particular, 42.8% of subjects referred motion sickness. The age of onset of the first headache was lower in the subsample with a familial history of migraine than in the total sample. Among the pediatric precursors, benign paroxysmal vertigo – BPV, benign paroxysmal torticollis, and motion sickness were predictive of a lower age of onset of vertigo in adulthood; cyclic vomiting was predictive for vomiting during vertigo attacks in adults.


Our results may indicate that vestibular symptoms in pediatric patients may act as a predisposing factor to develop vestibular migraine at an earlier age in adulthood.


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