Vertigo

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy when getting up or standing too quickly after lying down is not an uncommon problem for some people. Vertigo, however, is usually significantly more severe. For example, while the symptoms may last only a few minutes as with normal dizziness, they can persist for hours or even days. Vertigo can also occur without warning.

Vertigo Symptoms

The best-known symptom of vertigo is dizziness, but it is usually more severe than simple light-headedness. Patients may feel as if they are tilting, swaying or spinning; they may even feel as if they are being pulled in one direction. Other symptoms can include the following:

  • Tinnitus
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss
Vertigo UCI Head Neck 1 - Vertigo
Vertigo UCI Head Neck 2 - Vertigo

What Causes Vertigo?

Vertigo is a vestibular disorder, which means it affects the vestibular system that consists of those parts of the inner ear and brain responsible for controlling balance and eye movements. It is thus generally a symptom of diseases affecting the inner ear and/or parts of the brain. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common form of vertigo, and it is caused by accumulations of small calcium particles in the inner ear.

Other common causes of vertigo can include the following:

  • Ménière’s disease is a chronic and incurable vestibular disorder with recurrent bouts of hearing loss and vertigo.
  • A vestibular migraine is one that affects the inner ear and can thus cause blurry vision and vertigo.
  • A cholesteatoma is an abnormal skin growth that develops behind the middle ear and eventually damages the patient’s sense of balance.
  • Structural damage or defects caused by infection, injury, or birth defect will impair the vestibular system’s ability to work properly and thus cause vertigo.

Diagnosing Vertigo

A patient with chronic vertigo symptoms should see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist). The doctor will conduct a physical exam and order tests and scans to determine the cause of the vertigo.

How is Vertigo Treated?

The treatment for vertigo will depend on its cause. For example, if it is caused by an accumulation of calcium deposits, the doctor will recommend a group of head and body movements called canalith repositioning to move the calcium particles to places where the body can reabsorb them. The doctor may also recommend dietary changes restricting foods and drinks that can cause migraine like alcohol, coffee, and preserved, processed, or aged foods.

The doctor may also prescribe medications, especially if the patient also has other symptoms like nausea. If the patient’s vertigo is caused by a structural problem or they haven’t responded to more conservative treatments, the doctor will recommend surgery.

Vertigo UCI Head Neck 3 - Vertigo

Managing Vertigo

Vertigo is generally treatable, and most patients will see an improvement in their symptoms. They need to follow their doctor’s instructions to the letter in order to properly manage their symptoms. Patients who want to use home remedies or alternative treatments like herbs or essential oils need to discuss the matter with their doctor.