Understanding Vertigo – What is Vertigo?

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Vertigo is a term obtained from a Latin word ‘verto’ that means a spinning or a whirling movement of the world around them when it is actually not. It is a type of dizziness commonly associated with vomiting, nausea and imbalance of body. The prevalence of vertigo is 20-30% worldwide. According to a study it was found that 2.5% of the people admitted in emergency were due to vertigo from 1995 to 2004 in USA.


Vertigo is of 2 types:

  • Peripheral vertigo which occurs due to inner ear causes.
  • Central vertigo occurs when the underlying cause lies within the central nervous system of the body.

Causes of Vertigo

Causes of Vertigo

It may be caused due to any of the following reasons:

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV is the most common form of vertigo that occurs due to presence of minute calcium particles known as canaliths in the canals of inner ear. The balance of human body is maintained by the inner ear that responds to gravity by sending signals to the brain. It is more common in older people. Learn more about Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

Vestibular Neuronitis is a condition associated with the inflammation in the inner ear due to viral infection. This inflammation affects the nerves that sense the balance of the body thus leading to vertigo. Learn more about Vestibular neuronitis.

Labyrinthitis is the inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth which again leads to imbalance of body.

Meniere’s disease is caused by bacterial or viral infection that causes accumulation of fluid exerting high pressure in the ear. It may also be associated with hearing loss and tinnitus. Learn more about Meniere’s disease.

Other causes: These are the minor causes:

  • Injury in head and neck
  • Nerve demyelination or tumors in brain
  • Ear surgery
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Migraine headaches

Find out more about causes of Vertigo.

Diagnosis of Vertigo

It can be tested by the patient’s examination with a number of tests besides history taking from the patient. Common Vertigo tests include:

  • Dix-Hallpike test
  • Romberg’s test
  • Head impulse test
  • Test for nystagmus
  • Scans including MRI and CT scan

What causes Vertigo?

Signs and Symptoms of Vertigo

Signs and Symptoms of Vertigo

Vertigo is more common in older people. Its incidence rate is more in females than males. Vertigo may be triggered by change in the head’s position. Although vertigo is itself a symptom of several diseases but there are some symptoms associated with it:

  • Nausea
  • Feeling imbalanced or tilt while walking or sitting
  • Blurred vision
  • Nystagmus or jerky or abnormal movement of eyes
  • Headache
  • Excess sweating
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus

These above symptoms may be intermittent or continuous and may last for a few minutes or even for hours.

Treatment for Vertigo

The treatment depends on the underlying cause of vertigo. Sometimes it may go away without the need of treatment as the brain may adapt by finding an alternative mechanism for balancing the body. But many cases of vertigo require treatment that comprises of following methods:

Vestibular rehabilitation is a kind of physical exercise that aims to strengthen the vestibular system. It is preferred if a person suffers from recurrent episodes of vertigo time and again. It works by training your body’s other sense organs to balance and make up for vertigo.

Epley maneuvers is used for treating BPPV. It is a series of movements performed in order to remove the calcium deposits or canalithsfrom the canal into the inner ear chamber from where they may be absorbed by the body.

Medications are given for the associated symptoms to reduce the discomfort.  Various anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed by a physician to reduce swelling and for curing infection.

In case of Meniere’s disease, diuretics are recommended to reduce pressure caused by fluid accumulation.

Surgery: Some cases of vertigo including tumors or head injuries can only be treated with surgeries as the last resort to treatment.