What is vertigo?
Vertigo is the sensation of dizziness. About 40% of patients over age 40 report vertigo as a symptom, some of which report chronic vertigo intermittently for years. Many patients have vertigo that is mild and resolves quickly without medical intervention. However, in some patients, vertigo episodes may lead to dangerous falls. Unfortunately, there are many causes of vertigo. Vertigo is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The elderly are more susceptible to complications like falls when vertigo occurs.
Most causes of vertigo originate in the brain or inner ear. Some causes are relatively benign while others are not. The most common form of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Some people may refer to this as a feeling of motion sickness. BPPV is triggered by sudden head movements, occasionally from mild dehydration, or simply by standing up quickly after bending over. Vertigo may be caused by inflammation of the inner ear (labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis) due to a bacterial or viral inner ear infection. A type of migraine headache can also cause vertigo. Most cases of BPPV and labyrinthitis resolve spontaneously or can be treated. Meniere's disease (tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo) is usually intermittent but the cause is not known. The symptoms may respond to treatment. More serious causes of vertigo are low blood pressure, acoustic neuromas (tumors of ear nerve tissue), bleeding into the brain, loss of blood to the brain (from complications of arteriosclerosis or neck trauma that compromises blood vessels that supply blood to the brain), and multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosis of the underlying problems that lead to vertigo symptoms is the best way to approach vertigo treatment.
Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine
Cunha, John P. and Melissa Conrad Stöppler. "Vertigo." eMedicineHealth. 5 June 2013.
Samy, Hesham M., et al. "Vertigo." Medscape. 25 Feb. 2013.
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