While I was in grad school, I had as many as five dizzy spells a week. They were so bad that I had to be carried up stairs on multiple occasions and gave up driving. I would have to leave class and lie on the floor of my office, and frequently had to call friends to sub for me in the classes that I taught.

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and told that there wasn’t any good treatment for it. The disease causes sufferers to eventually lose hearing in at least one ear.

About two years later, the vertigo went almost as quickly as it came. I started a full-time job with regular hours and began driving again. Not long after that, headaches, which I’d had for years, became too strong to ignore. A year later came the correct diagnosis of migraine. At least I wasn’t going to go deaf.

In the last six months, my old friend vertigo has been hanging around. He now stops by only at night. If I lie on my back I can usually fall back asleep, so his visits aren’t too disruptive. Then he broke the rules by showing up yesterday morning.

After two attempts at getting out of bed, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. My headache wasn’t too bad, but I was dizzy. Not even terrible the-world-is-turning-turning-turning kind of dizzy. It was just enough that I couldn’t be up longer than two minutes without becoming nauseated.

I felt so crippled. I know approximately how long and how painful a migraine will be, and I can always pop pills to take the pain down a notch. That lets me feel some amount of control. Lying down and waiting it out is the only treatment for vertigo.

It’s now 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday. The dizziness let up about 7 p.m., but I feel like I have the mental and emotional parts of a migraine hangover. My body is wide awake, my mind is barely working. Little things frustrate me beyond belief. I feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of life.

Vertigo could be another manifestation of migraine for me. Or maybe I forgot to take my pills. Some days it’s all too complicated.

Mental Health, Patient Education

Coexisting Conditions

“Comorbid” is a word I’m seeing more and more in discussions of migraine. I don’t know if it’s appearing in more patient-centered articles than it once did or if I see it more because I read so much more about migraine than I once did. In any case, it’s something everyone with headache should know about.

Here’s the definition: Comorbidities are disorders that have a greater-than-coincidental association with another disease. According to WebMD, disorders that are thought to be comorbid with migraine including stroke, epilepsy, lupus, Raynaud syndrome, multiple sclerosis, essential tremor, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social phobia. Meniere’s disease and certain gastrointestinal disorders are also sometimes mentioned.

It’s like being in high school. Maggie, Ann and Peter are best friends and don’t go anywhere without each other. Ann starts dating Steve and he becomes the fourth member of the group. Does Ann cause Steve to be part of the group? Could he have joined them if he was Maggie’s lab partner and she knew her other friends would like him? What if they all sit next to each other in a class and Steve just naturally joins the group? Does it matter which came first or why?

There aren’t many web resources that catalog and describe comorbidities. The best I’ve found is Headache Disorders: Common Coexisting Conditions. If you want to know if a specific disease is comorbid with migraine, the best online option is to Google both terms together or use both terms and comorbid or coexist.