What is vertigo?
Vertigo is a type of severe dizziness in which the person involved feels like they or their surroundings are spinning or moving. Vertigo is a very common occurrence with a vast variety of causes. Some of these causes are benign, or harmless, while others could point to a larger problem. It is theorized that every person will experience at least one episode of vertigo in their life.
Types of vertigo
There are many different types and causes of vertigo. In some people, vertigo is a symptom of a medical problem. Some examples of these include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): This is one of the most common causes of vertigo. BPPV causes brief periods of vertigo in intensities that range from mild to severe. These episodes are usually triggered by specific changes to the position of the head. For example, vertigo could be triggered by tipping your head up and down, when you lie down or when you turn over or sit up. While this disorder can be vexing, it is only dangerous if it increases your chances of falling.
- Meniere’s disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that is theorized to be caused by a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the ear. Along with vertigo, it can also cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss.
- Vestibular neuritis (also known as labyrinthitis): This is an inner ear problem that is often related to viral infections. The infections cause inflammation in the inner ear and surrounding nerves that are important in sensing balance.
Causes of vertigo
Other causes of vertigo include:
- Certain medications
- Injury to the head and neck
- Migraine headaches
- Sudden drops in blood pressure
- Decreased blood flow to the brain
- Certain chronic illnesses such as dysautonomia and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Symptoms of vertigo may include sensations like:
- Being pulled to on side
- Sudden headache
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Temporary hearing loss
- Nystagmus (abnormal, jerking movements of the eyes)
- Sudden weakness
- Loss of coordination
Treatment of vertigo depends on what’s causing the phenomenon. In many instances, the sensation will go away on it’s own. If it is persistent or occurs often, there are options available including:
- Vestibular rehabilitation is a type of physical therapy that focuses on strengthening the vestibular system, which is the system that controls balance and movement.
- Canalith repositioning maneuvers are a series of specific head and body movements designed to remove calcium deposits out of the ear canal that may be causing the vertigo.
- Some medications can help with dizziness and vertigo such as meclizine (Antivert), promethazine hydrochloride (Phenergan), odansetron (Zofran) and lorazepan (Ativan).
- In very rare cases, vertigo must be corrected through surgery. This is usually only needed if the vertigo is caused by serious conditions such as injury to the brain or spinal cord or tumors in the brain or spinal cord.