Vertigo

  • Medical Author:
    Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

    Dr. Taylor has a passion for treating patients as individuals. In practice since 1994, she has a wide range of experience in treating patients with many types of movement disorders and dementias. In addition to patient care, she is actively involved in the training of residents and medical students, and has been both primary and secondary investigator in numerous research studies through the years. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology). She graduated with a BS degree from Alma College, and an MS (biomechanics) from Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her internship and residency were completed at Botsford General Hospital. Additionally, she completed a fellowship in movement disorders with Dr. Peter LeWitt. She has been named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists. She is board-certified in neurology by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has authored several articles and lectured extensively; she continues to write questions for two national medical boards. Dr. Taylor is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) of the Alzheimer's Association of Michigan, and is a reviewer for the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.

  • Medical Editor: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

women with dizziness

Vertigo Symptoms and Signs

Vertigo is a feeling that you are dizzily turning around or that your surroundings are dizzily turning about you. Vertigo is usually due to a problem with the inner ear but can also be caused by vision problems and other conditions. Vertigo is medically distinct from dizziness, lightheadedness, and unsteadiness in that vertigo involves the sensation of movement. Vertigo may be described as a feeling that you yourself are spinning around, known as subjective vertigo, or the feeling of rotation of the surrounding environment, known as objective vertigo.

Quick GuideBalance Disorders: Vertigo, Motion Sickness, Labyrinthitis, and More

Balance Disorders: Vertigo, Motion Sickness, Labyrinthitis, and More

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is a sense of rotation, rocking, or the world spinning, experienced even when someone is perfectly still.

Many children attempt to create a sense of vertigo by spinning around for a time; this type of induced vertigo lasts for a few moments and then disappears. In comparison, when vertigo occurs spontaneously or as a result of an injury it tends to last for many hours or even days before resolving.

Sound waves travel through the outer ear canal until they reach the ear drum. From there, sound is turned into vibrations, which are transmitted through the inner ear via three small bones -- the incus, the malleus, and the stapes -- to the cochlea and finally to the vestibular nerve, which carries the signal to our brain. Another important part of the inner ear is the collection of semicircular canals. These are positioned at right angles to each other, and are lined with sensitive cells to act like a gyroscope for the body. This distinctive arrangement, in combination with the sensitivity of the hair cells within the canals, provides instantaneous feedback regarding our position in space. Continue Reading

Picture of the outer and inner structures of the ear.
Picture of the outer and inner structures of the ear.
Reviewed on 5/1/2015
References
Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine

REFERENCES:

Bhattacharyya, N., et al. "Clinical practice guideline: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo." Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery 139.5 Suppl 4 (2008): S47-S81.

von Brevern, M., et al. "Epidemiology of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: a population based study." Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 78.7 (2007): 710–715.

Burmeister, D. B., et al. "Management of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo with the canalith repositioning maneuver in the emergency department setting." The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 110.10 (2010): 602-604.

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