What Is a Basilar Migraine?

Basilar migraines are caused by a disturbance in the brainstem, explains WebMD, and individuals generally experience other symptoms before the headache itself begins, including dizziness, double vision and slurred speech. Doctors must rule out other more serious conditions, such as stroke and seizures, before diagnosing a basilar migraine.

Doctors also call basilar migraines Bickerstaff syndrome, brainstem migraine and vertebrobasilar migraine, according to WebMD. Basilar migraines are fairly rare and more likely to affect female children and young adults, notes Healthline. They may be related to hormonal changes.

Basilar migraines often start on one side of the head before worsening and spreading, states WebMD. Basilar migraines are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and cold hands. The aura symptoms that precede basilar migraines, such as dizziness and temporary blindness, last between five minutes to one hour.

Doctors often require MRIs, CT scans and various other neurodiagnostic tests to differentiate basilar migraines from more serious disorders or other types of migraines. Doctors prescribe pain relievers and anti-nausea medicines to people with diagnosed basilar migraines. WebMD recommends a number of ways to avoid basilar migraines, including adequate sleep, daily exercise and limiting stress. A good diet and avoidance of drugs, alcohol and caffeine also help reduce the occurrence of basilar migraines. Doctors may also prescribe preventative medicines similar to those used to prevent other migraines.