What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is the uncontrollable feeling of either you or the world around you spinning (x). Generally, it is a dizzy spell that is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. The severity of the feeling varies; it could be mild and hardly noticeable or so intense that it puts you off balance (x). Vertigo may develop abruptly and last for a considerable amount of time. People with severe vertigo experience intense and constant symptoms that may last for several days (x).
Common symptoms associated with vertigo include dizziness, loss of balance and feeling sick (x). Unlike dizziness, vertigo is a sensation that creates the illusion either you or the surrounding is moving. Subjective vertigo occurs when the individual feels like they are moving or spinning. On the other hand, objective vertigo occurs when an individual feels like the surrounding is spinning (x).
Types of Vertigo
There are two main types of vertigo — peripheral and central — though a third type is being studied.
Peripheral is the most common type of vertigo caused mostly by problems in the inner ear, which affects balance (x). Common symptoms of peripheral vertigo include nausea, a spinning sensation, vomiting, excessive sweating and ear problems (x). Peripheral vertigo caused by an ear infection may cause a feeling of fullness in the ear (x).
This is the less common type of vertigo usually caused by brain injuries (such as a concussion) or diseases. This type of vertigo usually occurs suddenly and may last longer than peripheral vertigo. In addition, the spinning sensation of central vertigo is usually more intense. Affected individuals often need help standing or walking when they experience central vertigo (x).
New Type of Vertigo
Apart from peripheral and central vertigo, neurologists have recently identified a new type of vertigo (x). The exact cause of this type of vertigo remains a mystery. However, it usually responds to treatment. The new type of vertigo is ‘recurrent spontaneous vertigo’ (x). It is generally characterized by uncontrolled head-shaking movements accompanied by vertigo, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Patients with recurrent spontaneous vertigo typically experience extreme motion sickness.
The symptoms of vertigo often vary from one person to another, depending on the underlying cause.
Symptoms of Peripheral Vertigo
A sensation of spinning, movement and lightheadedness are the most noticeable symptoms. Additionally, a person with it may have trouble maintaining balance. They can also experience ringing in the ears as well as double vision and problems focusing the vision.
Symptoms of Central Vertigo
Central vertigo is more pronounced. Its symptoms include slurred speech, weakness in the limbs, difficulty swallowing and facial paralysis. Similar to peripheral vertigo, central can also induce double vision and difficulty focusing vision.
What Vertigo Feels Like
People who have experienced vertigo usually describe it as feeling like their surroundings are spinning. It may cause one to feel like they are unsteady, unbalanced or rocking (x).
In some cases, the sensation feels worse when the individual is standing, walking or moving their head (x). Patients often find it physically exhausting. The spinning feeling may be so severe that it causes the patient to vomit or experience nausea (x).
Vertigo sensation may last a few seconds, minutes or even hours (x). Some patients experience constant vertigo while the symptoms of others come and go with time. In many cases, it is not accompanied by fainting or motion sickness (x).
Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo is usually a symptom of an underlying problem, commonly in the inner ear, brain or nervous system (x).
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
This form of vertigo usually occurs suddenly and may be initiated by sudden head movements or even something as simple as rolling over in bed (x). Fortunately, BPPV does not have any other adverse effects and is treatable (x).
Also known as labyrinthitis (x), vestibular neuritis refers to vertigo caused by inflammation in the inner ear. This condition is usually associated with hearing loss and is the result of a bacterial or viral infection in the inner ear.
The symptoms of vertigo caused by inner ear infection may last until the infection or inflammation subsides (x). Vestibular neuritis may result from measles, rubella, hepatitis, polio, influenza, mumps and herpes virus (x).
This condition is usually accompanied by three main symptoms; tinnitus or ringing in the ear, hearing loss and vertigo (x). This condition causes sudden and severe vertigo accompanied by episodes of hearing loss. However, the patient also experiences periods where they are symptom-free (x).
Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA)
Decreased blood flow to the base of the brain may cause vertigo (x). In addition, it may be a sign of stroke caused by blood clots or blockage of blood vessels at the back of the brain (x). It may also be caused by bleeding at the back of the head (x). The symptoms of this type of vertigo include headaches, difficulty walking and inability to turn your head to the side where the bleeding occurs (x).
People with this condition usually face away from the side of the brain hemorrhage (x). Therefore, this vertigo impairs walking and concentration.
Vertigo is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis (x). This type of vertigo occurs suddenly and causes the individual to be unable to move the eyes past the midline toward the nose (x).
Low blood sugar levels and hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy, may cause some women to experience it (x). This type of vertigo usually occurs during the first trimester. However, some women may experience it during the second trimester as a result of increased blood pressure in the expanding uterus (x).
During the third and fourth trimester, it may be caused by lying on the back, which causes the weight of the developing baby to press on the vena cava, a large vein that carries blood to the heart (x).
Mal De Debarquement
This type of vertigo usually occurs after disembarking from a ship or boat (x). Many people experience Mal de debarquement or sickness of disembarkation after a long cruise. Some people may experience this type of vertigo after traveling by plane, train or car (x).
Vertigo is diagnosed mainly by examining a patient’s health history and undertaking a physical exam (x). Your physician may ask you if you are experiencing the sensation of motion or spinning to determine if it exists. The physician may also ask you if you have experienced nausea, vomiting and excessive sweating (x).
The doctor will also examine the patient for abnormal eye movements (x) and ask the patient how long they have been experiencing the symptoms and whether the symptoms occur when moving or changing positions (x).
The diagnosis determines the type of vertigo treatment that will be administered. Medicine for treating it may be administered by mouth, through the skin like a patch or IV (x). Some types of vertigo may require specific treatments. For instance, treatment for Meniere’s disease (x) includes a low-fat diet and medication for increasing urine output. An ENT specialist (x) may recommend surgery for holes or infections in the ear that are causing it. Certain maneuvers may be recommended for treating BPPV. Such maneuvers include the semont maneuver, Epley maneuver, half somersault maneuver and Brandt-Darrof exercise (x).
When to Seek Medical Care
Consider having any signs of vertigo carefully evaluated by a trained physician. Although it is mostly harmless, it can be debilitating at times (x). Fortunately, most cases of it are easily treatable with medication (x). Be sure to seek immediate medical attention in case you experience:
- Difficulty speaking
- Abnormal eye movements
- Double vision
- General weakness
- Difficulty arousing
- Altered consciousness
- Lack of coordination
Additionally, if you experience bad cases of it avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while at risk.
Vertigo Remedies and Supplements
Ginger supports joint, skin and heart health (x). In addition, ginger helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the body and relieves gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn (x). The healthy serving for ginger is 1,000 milligrams per day. Consume with lots of water.
Women in maternal condition, including breastfeeding mothers, should not supplement with ginger. In addition, do not take this product before consulting a doctor if you have diabetes.
Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with rickets (x), a condition that causes bones and skin to become deformed. This product supports bone and teeth health as well as metabolism (x). It also promotes the absorption of magnesium (x).
Overdose may cause nausea, constipation, irregular heartbeat and seizures (x). Therefore, measure the supplement with an accurate weighing scale. The healthy serving portion for vitamin D is 50 mg per day. Do not take if you are expecting, lactating or have a history of kidney disorders.
Several tips can help relieve the symptoms of vertigo (x). Your physician may advise you to:
- Make sure your head is slightly raised on a pillow or two when sleeping
- Get up slowly when standing or sitting, especially if you have been sleeping in bed
- Avoid bending for prolonged periods
- Avoid overextending the neck when reaching up for an object
- Move your head slowly and gently during daily activities
The Bottom Line
Vertigo is the sensation of movement of the surrounding or self (x). It is usually harmless and does not cause any adverse health effects (x). However, vertigo may also be a sign of an underlying health complication (x). There are two main types of vertigo (x); peripheral and central. This condition may be caused by hardening of the arteries, stroke, trauma and meningitis, among others. Fortunately, vertigo is manageable and can be diagnosed by your doctor.