What is Vertigo?

What is Vertigo?

June 26, 2019

Do you experience dizzy spells where you feel like you are spinning or the world around you is spinning? You may be suffering from vertigo.

Vertigo sufferers often feel as if they are spinning, tilting, swaying or unbalanced. They may also experience nausea, jerking eye movements, headache, ringing in the ears and hearing loss.

In many cases, vertigo is caused by inner ear problems including:

BPPV. In benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (the most common type of vertigo), tiny calcium particles clump up, or get dislodged, in inner ear canals. This confuses the signals the inner ear sends to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity. Sudden head movements or moving the head in a certain direction can cause the brief sensation of motion lasting 15 seconds to a few minutes. BPPV can occur by head injury or for no reason and may be associated with the aging process. This type of vertigo is typically not serious and can be treated.

Meniere’s Disease. This inner ear disorder is caused by a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the ear. People suffering from Meneiere’s Disease experience vertigo as well as ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss. Sufferers typically have an abrupt onset of severe vertigo and fluctuating hearing loss in addition to periods where they are symptom free. While not fully understood, it is believed that Meniere’s Disease is caused by viral infections of the inner ear, head injury, hereditary factors or allergies.

Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis. This inner ear problem is typically related to a viral or bacterial infection that causes inflammation around the nerves responsible for helping the body sense balance. Sufferers from this form of vertigo experience abrupt onset of severe vertigo, which may involve hearing loss. Symptoms may last for days or until the infection subsides. Viruses that my cause vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis include herpes, influenza, measles, rubella, mumps, polio, hepatitis and the Epstein-Barr virus.

Vertigo may also be caused by:

Vestibular Migraines. Found in people who have a history of migraines, vestibular migraines are a nervous system problem that causes repeated dizziness that comes and goes. In addition to the dizziness, symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, balance issues, extreme motion sensitivity, disorientation and confusion, and a sensitivity to sound. (Note: Despite the name, Vestibular Migraines don’t always cause headaches) While doctors don’t know what causes them, they appear to be related to misfires between nerve cells in your brain and are treated with prescription drugs to stop an attack when it happens.

Orthostatic hypotension (or postural dizziness) is a type of low blood pressure that occurs after you stand up from sitting or lying down. Symptoms include lightheadedness, weakness, blurred vision and even passing out (syncope). The most common causes of orthostatic hypotension are dehydration, low blood sugar, too much time in the sun, blood loss and anemia. The condition is frequently mild, lasting a few seconds to a few minutes after standing. However, if you experience long-lasting orthostatic hypotension or, even more significantly, lose consciousness, you should talk to your doctor as it may be a sign of a more serious problem.

Medication. Vertigo can also be a side effect of many prescription medications including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood Pressure Medicine
  • Medicines used to treat anxiety or depression
  • Pain medications
  • Medicines used to treat cancer

If you think your medication is causing your vertigo, be sure to tell your doctor.

Your vertigo may go away on its own. However, to be cautious, you should raise the issue with your ENT specialist near Palm Beach to rule out the possibility of inner ear issues. Most causes of vertigo are readily treatable with physical therapy, medication, and surgery if the problem does not resolve itself. Why suffer needlessly?