Vertigo is actually a symptom or
a sensation meaning whirling or spinning movement. Vertigo is an
illusion of motion and is a problem seen increasingly in people
as they age. It is usually temporary and a sign of some other problem
or condition. Vertigo is a type of dizziness. It is often associated
with nausea and vomiting as well as difficulties standing or walking.
There are several different types of vertigo that are considered
conditions: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, central vertigo,
peripheral vertigo and physiologic vertigo. Vertigo is one of the
most common complaints for which people seek medical advice.
can be caused by problems in the brain or the inner ear.
paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common form
of vertigo and is characterized by the sensation of motion initiated
by sudden head movements or moving the head in a certain direction.
This type of vertigo is rarely serious and can be treated.
Vertigo may also be caused by inflammation within the inner
ear (labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis), which is characterized
by the sudden onset of vertigo and may be associated with hearing
loss. The most common cause of labyrinthitis is a viral or bacterial
inner ear infection.
Meniere's disease is composed of a triad of symptoms including:
episodes of vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing
loss. People with this condition have the abrupt onset of severe
vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, as well as periods in which
they are symptom-free.
Acoustic neuroma is a type of tumor of the nerve tissue that
can cause vertigo. Symptoms include vertigo with one-sided ringing
in the ear and hearing loss.
Vertigo can be caused by decreased blood flow to the base of
the brain. Bleeding into the back of the brain (cerebellar hemorrhage)
is characterized by vertigo, headache, difficulty walking, and
inability to look toward the side of the bleed. The result is
that the person's eyes gaze away from the side with the problem.
Walking is also extremely impaired.
Vertigo is often the presenting symptom in multiple sclerosis.
The onset is usually abrupt, and examination of the eyes may
reveal the inability of the eyes to move past the midline toward
Head trauma and neck injury may also result in vertigo, which
usually goes away on its own.
Migraine, a severe form of headache, may also cause vertigo.
The vertigo is usually followed by a headache. There is often
a prior history of similar episodes but no lasting problems.
Complications from diabetes can cause arteriosclerosis (hardening
of the arteries) which can lead to lowered blood flow to the
brain, causing vertigo symptoms.
implies that there is a sensation of motion either of the person
or the environment, often perceived as if the room is spinning around
you. This should not be confused with symptoms of lightheadedness
or fainting. Vertigo differs from motion sickness in that motion
sickness is a feeling of being off-balance and lacking equilibrium,
caused by repeated motions such as riding in a car or boat. If true
vertigo exists, symptoms include a sensation of disorientation or
motion. In addition, the individual may also have any or all of
abnormal eye movements.
duration of symptoms can be from minutes to hours, and symptoms
can be constant or episodic. The onset may be due to a movement
or change in position.
choice of treatment will depend on the diagnosis.
can be treated with medicine taken by mouth, through medicine
placed on the skin (a patch), or drugs given through an IV.
Specific types of vertigo may require additional treatment and
Bacterial infection of the middle ear requires antibiotics.
Meniere's disease, in addition to symptomatic treatment,
people might be placed on a low salt diet and may require
medication used to increase urine output.
hole in the inner ear causing recurrent infection may require
referral to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for
addition to the drugs used for benign paroxysmal positional
vertigo, several physical maneuvers can be used to treat the
Vestibular rehabilitation exercises, also referred to as
Epley maneuvers, consist of having the patient sit on the
edge of a table and lie down to one side until the vertigo
resolves followed by sitting up and lying down on the other
side, again until the vertigo ceases. This is repeated until
the vertigo no longer occurs.
Particle repositioning maneuver
is a treatment based on the idea that the condition is caused
by displacement of tiny stones in the balance center (vestibular
system) of the inner ear. The head is repositioned to move
the stones to their normal position. This maneuver is repeated
until the abnormal eye movements are no longer visible.