Is it Vertigo?

Most of us have suffered from dizzy spells in the past, but what if you had the feeling of the world spinning for 24 hours straight? Vertigo describes the illusion of motion or a spinning sensations and typically points to a problem with your inner ear, especially if the sensation is triggered by sudden movement. It can be easy to confuse this with common dizziness, which is why you should seek evaluation by your primary care physician.

What are the signs of vertigo?

The classic signs and symptoms of vertigo include a sense of rotation even when you are standing perfectly still. This can be triggered by a change in the position of your head.  Some other symptoms include:

·       Spinning

·       Tilting

·       Swaying

·       Unbalanced

·       Nausea

·       Headache

·       Ringing in the ear

What causes vertigo?

The sensation of vertigo is caused by a disruption in the signals between your brain and your body’s position and balance systems. Your inner ear contains specialized cells that help detect motion and changes in positions. Typically this information reinforces visual cues regarding your body’s position and movements. When there is injury or disease to the inner ear, it can send false signals that conflict with visual and positional information. As your brain tries to process these confusing signals, vertigo can occur.

Vertigo can be chronic or temporary.  Acute attacks of vertigo are most commonly due to benign disorders of the inner ear.  This will interfere with your balance and sense of environment, but will only occur once or twice and resolve.  On the other hand, viral infections of the inner ear can interfere with normal signaling, causing a sudden attack of vertigo that can last for over 24 hours, and chronic episodes could be triggered by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which occurs with changes in head position.  These can usually be resolved through physician treatment, or repositioning of the components of the inner ear.  

Other causes include Meniere's disease, which causes a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the ear, or head/neck injury, medications related to ear damage, migraines, and brain issues such as stroke or tumor.

How do you treat vertigo?

The most important thing is to avoid episodes of vertigo.  Trying to prevent vertigo can include lifestyle changes like reduction in the intensity of physical activity, and to avoid excessive heat or humidity.  During hot summer months, an air conditioned environment can be very beneficial in preventing episodes of vertigo related to heat.

Similarly, it is extremely important to see a doctor and figure out the exact cause of your vertigo, as there are very different types of causes. Some can be transient episodes, while other forms of vertigo can be indicative of something much more serious under the surface. Remember to discuss your symptoms with a doctor.