Vertigo may be a temporary or permanent condition, which may all depend on its causative factor. Vertigo is a form of dizziness in which a person experiences a sensation of spinning or whirling motion. The two types of vertigo are subjective and objective. In subjective vertigo, a person feels as though he or she is spinning. On the other hand, if a person has a sensation of their surrounding spinning, it is termed as objective. Although vertigo mostly affects the elderly people, it can also affect children and younger adults.
Problems with balance may occur as a result of disorders in the vestibular system in the ears or due to a disturbed functioning of the centers of the brain that regulate balance. The vestibular system is a tiny grid of fluid-filled tubes and sacs. There are two identical vestibular systems. As your body moves, the liquid in the tubes also moves about, and its levels are read by the nerve cells. The information is sent to the brain to calculate which way is down and what should be on the horizontal level. Any problems related to balance always originates from the vestibular system. Therefore, vertigo is also known as a vestibular disorder.
The Common Causes of Vertigo
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo - is a condition wherein a change in the position of the head causes a sensation of spinning. It is caused by the clumping of calcium particles within your inner ear.
- Meniere’s disease - is a disorder in which fluid accumulates within the inner ear. The exact cause of this disease still remains unknown. It usually manifests in people who do work that requires constant concentration and requires careful control of the hands for a long duration of time.
- Labyrinthitis - is an inflammatory condition of the inner ear. The labyrinth is a complex structure of the inner ear, which includes the hearing and the balance organs. They are filled with fluid and sensitive membranes. It is usually due to viral infections such as mumps, herpes, and rubella. Bacterial infections can also cause labyrinthitis.
- Vestibular neuritis - is a condition wherein the nerves that are responsible for transmitting impulses of balance to the brain are inflamed. This condition, like labyrinthitis, may also arise due to a viral or bacterial infection.
- Head or neck trauma - especially trauma to the lower part of the skull.
- Acoustic neuroma - is an uncommon cause of vertigo. It is a benign tumor of the brain that affects the balance and hearing nerves, thereby causing vertigo.
Vertigo can also happen due to the use of certain medications, such as antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other causes of vertigo include stroke, migraine headaches, and brain tumors.
The symptoms of vertigo may include nausea, vomiting, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), abnormal eye movements (nystagmus), and problems associated with walking. Vertigo symptoms can last from a few minutes to several hours. The symptoms can also be chronic or episodic. However, all symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause of vertigo. Let us take the following instances:
- If vertigo occurs as a result of labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, then it may last for a few days until the infection subsides.
- In cases where vertigo is caused by Mal de Debarquement, such as getting off a ship, symptoms may disappear within a period of 24 hours.
- Vertigo caused by Meniere’s disease can last from 20 minutes to 24 hours.
- Vertigo that is caused by a stroke can lead to permanent brain damage, which consequently develops persistent vertigo symptoms.
- If vertigo is caused by head or neck injury, it may lead to permanent symptoms.
- Symptoms usually resolve within a week of treatment with the Epley maneuver in cases of a benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
- In cases of tumors, the symptoms of vertigo are more pronounced when the tumors are small. As the tumors grow larger, the symptoms become less severe and eventually subside.
- Drugs such as aspirin and certain antibiotics can cause temporary vertigo. Symptoms will improve if the drug causing vertigo is withdrawn.
- Viral labyrinthitis may appear weeks or months after a bout of flu or some other viral illnesses. The vertigo is milder and you may not lose any hearing, though you’ll probably have tinnitus (a ringing in the ear).
Sometimes, the duration of vertigo can be affected by the type of treatment that is provided to a patient. The treatment of vertigo largely depends on its cause. Treatment options include physical therapy, such as Epley maneuver that is used in the treatment of BPPV and medications such as antihistamines, anticholinergics, and benzodiazepines. However, some patients may not respond to these treatments. In such cases, surgery may be required to alleviate the symptoms of vertigo.
A few methods to stop getting vertigo
- Visit your doctor - if you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, then visit your doctor. Usually, vertigo is due to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and Meniere's disease, but it could be a number of other conditions as well. However, whatever it is, never try to self-medicate. Doing so might just end up worsening your condition.
- The ear contains the sensory organ for balance - it is important to know which ear is causing the trouble. The treatment varies depending on the ear. Try to pay attention when you get dizzy. If you notice that you get dizzy when you bend towards your left side or roll on the left side of the bed, then it’s probably the left ear that’s causing the problem. If you cannot figure out which ear it is, then consult a doctor.
- Certain head movements also cause vertigo - there are certain head movements that can return the crystals that have come loose in your inner ear to the right place. This repositioning maneuver is known as the Epley maneuver, which can be performed by your physician. You can do it yourself once you see your physician do it each time you experience vertigo. There are also videos online, which can guide the viewers on how to execute the Epley maneuver. Whatever the source, make sure you truly have BPPV before going for this.
- Sleeping with your head propped up - sleeping with your head that is slightly elevated will prevent the crystals from getting dislodged during the night.