A woman falling through the air

Can Menstrual Cycles Cause Vertigo?

Toward the end of 2020, I began experiencing new symptoms related to vertigo and dizziness.

At first, the symptoms were relatively mild and short-lived, but over the course of several days, they began to increase in frequency and duration. This continued until it culminated in an incident of me waking up at around 5 am on Halloween morning with the room violently spinning to the point where I began vomiting.

I was carted off to the ER where a battery of tests was run to rule out a stroke or something more serious happening inside of my brain, such as a CAT scan, blood work, EKG, etc. The tests were inconclusive, as were the follow-up tests like MRIs.

Getting a vestibular migraine diagnosis

The doctors eventually decided I had developed a new "vestibular" type of migraine that can cause balance issues and vertigo. The vestibular system refers to the inner ear system that affects balance. When it is disturbed for various reasons, one can experiences vertigo.

A year later and these vestibular events, while they haven't quite reached the severity of that fateful morning--have continued to strike semi-regularly. Sometimes I will be fine for several weeks or even a month or two.

But as time has gone on, I usually get them at least once or twice a month and they tend to last at least one if not several days, with residual impacts lasting even longer, including a general "wobbliness" or feeling when walking that I am on a boat.

In trying to better understand my body and its many mysteries, I had started to wonder if perhaps the vestibular episodes were in some ways also impacted by my menstrual cycles.

Could my cycle be the cause of my vertigo?

Since my hysterectomy, it's been harder to track where I am in my cycle in a given month, or even if I am cycling regularly at all some months. But considering for a while these episodes were striking every four weeks or so, it's hard to not think they might be at least partially impacted by hormonal fluctuations in my body, especially post-hysterectomy.

Lately, I get these episodes every two weeks or so, which still might be related to my cycle (maybe caused by ovulation as well as when I would normally menstruate).

Curious, I began to Google to see if any links have been determined between hormonal fluctuations in the menstrual cycle and vestibular symptoms. I did find one test from 2009 that samples 20 women ages 18 to 35 both some days before and then some days after their periods.

The study did find that their cycles seemed to affect their vestibular systems.1

They found those who had personal or family histories of headaches/migraines, dizziness issues, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), nausea, and sleep disorders were more likely to experience vestibular symptoms. I have a family and personal medical history of all of these issues, which may also explain my particular vulnerability.

Of course, a sample of 20 women is not very large and is not conclusive for proving a medical theory. But it at least does offer me some indication that my cycle may be playing a role in this.

In which case, I can hopefully use that information to get a better handle on the problem. The Vestibular Disorder Association (VeDA) also posits hormones in the menstrual cycle could play a role in this disorder in a number of ways so I will likely be reaching out to that organization for resources.2

Do you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or other "vestibular" symptoms during certain points in your menstrual cycle? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

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