Prevention First

VERTIGO

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. Vertigo is one of the most common complaints for which people seek medical advice.

Causes

Vertigo can be caused by problems in the brain or the inner ear.

  • Benign 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 which is characterized by the sudden onset of vertigo and may be associated with hearing loss. The most common cause of this 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 and hearing loss. People with this condition have the sudden onset of severe vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, as well as periods in which they are symptom-free.
  • 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.
  • 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 hardening of the arteries which can lead to lowered blood flow to the brain, causing vertigo symptoms.

Symptoms

Vertigo 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. If true vertigo exists, symptoms include a sensation of disorientation or motion. In addition, the individual may also have any or all of these symptoms:

  • nausea or vomiting,
  • sweating, and/or
  • abnormal eye movements.

Treatment

The choice of treatment will depend on the diagnosis.
  • Vertigo can be treated with medicine taken by mouth, through medicine placed on the skin (a patch), or drugs given intravenous
  • Specific types of vertigo may require additional treatment and referral:
    • Bacterial infection of the middle ear requires antibiotics.
    • For 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.

Prevention

People with vertigo symptoms or people that have a tendency to develop vertigo may reduce or eliminate the symptoms by doing the following:

  • Change position slowly, especially when going from a lying or sitting position to a standing position. When you get out of bed, sit on the side of the bed for a few seconds to gain your orientation and allow your circulatory system to adjust.
  • When walking, focus on distant objects. Do not look down at your feet. Avoid walking in dark areas or on unstable ground. Falls at home occur when the floor covering changes from carpet to tile or linoleum.
  • When riding in a car, try to sit in the front seat. Look out of the window at a fixed point. When going around curves, look at a distant object beyond the curve.
  • Make certain eye glass and hearing aid prescriptions are current.
  • Use a cane, walking stick, or walker for support and to give additional pressure and touch (tactile) orientation.
  • Avoid activities that move the head up and down repetitively.
  • Try to avoid keeping the head tilted back for long periods of time, for example painting or dusting above your head.