Definition and Overview
Vertigo is a sensation of spinning, whirling, and feeling lightheaded even if a person is sitting or standing still. It usually signifies a balance disorder.
Many incorrectly refer to it as being lightheaded. Although a person with vertigo complains of the former, being lightheaded means getting into a moment of almost passing out. To suffer from vertigo is to experience whirling motion. A perfect way to describe it is to turn around multiple times and then hold yourself still.
Vertigo can happen very suddenly and in the worst cases, it can last for days. Depending on the severity of the vertigo, it may require constant therapy, as well as adequate and prompt treatment.
There are two general kinds of vertigo: peripheral and central. The difference between the two is the affected organ. If it affects the ears, it’s peripheral. Central refers to injuries, traumas, and other health conditions affecting the brain. Most cases of vertigo are peripheral.
Under peripheral vertigo, there are three subtypes, namely, Meniere’s disease, benign paroxysmal vertigo (BBPV), and vestibular neuronitis.
As to the connection between vertigo and ears, the latter is often associated with balance due to the different nerves connected from the vestibule system and the brain, along with nerves that are connected to your eyesight. Sometimes the vestibular system is damaged or infected with a virus (vestibular neuronitis). Crystals can also form, release themselves into the ear fluid, and cause dizziness (BBPV). Meniere’s disease, meanwhile, is associated with hearing loss and dizziness, although the exact cause of the illness remains unknown.
There are also risk factors when it comes to vertigo and these include the following:
Aging: The older you are, the higher the chance that you’ll develop BBPV. Calcium builds up in the inner ear canals, which then alter the way the nerve impulses are being delivered to the brain. Although there’s no actual reason why this happens, this is also the easiest inner ear problem to deal with.
Migraines: About 40% of migraines also experience vertigo. There’s also a condition called migraine-associated vertigo. Migraine is characterized by a throbbing or pulsating pain in one side of the head.
Drugs: Certain drugs may cause side effects affecting the inner ear. These include medications for depression and seizure.
Symptoms and Treatments Available
You may be experiencing vertigo if you:
- Feel as if your or your environment is spinning
- Develop dizziness when you wake up
- Experience dizziness gets worse when moving your head
- Feel as if you are about to fall down
Vertigo can also manifest through:
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aura (related to vision)
- Intense sweating
Some cases of vertigo are mild that you may not think about seeing your physician. Nevertheless, because it’s often a sign of an underlying illness, it’s still best to be more cautious and seek medical help as soon as you can.
Your doctor will perform a series of tests to determine whether what you have is vertigo and not typical dizziness or migraine. The consultation begins by looking into your medical history, including when you started to experience the symptoms. A test called Dix-Hallpike’s manoeuvre may be required to diagnose the condition. If the test came back positive, then you may have BPPV. Other known tests are caloric and tuning fork.
If the sensation is accompanied by fever, a blood test will be ordered to determine if you are suffering from an infection. In certain instances, the doctor may recommend an image scan or electronystagmography.
One of the most popular methods of managing vertigo is the Epley maneuver or the repositioning of the fluid in the canals to a location where they don’t cause the imbalance or the feeling of dizziness. On the other hand, if you have issues with your neck or back, perhaps because of a previous injury or another medical condition, an alternative is the Brandt-Daroff exercise. These two techniques may be performed anywhere and without medical supervision.
Other solutions include:
- Less alcohol drinking
- Stress management
- Rehabilitation of the vestibular system
- Medications such as prochlorperazine
Otology is a branch of medicine that deals with anything that is related to the ears, including its structure and condition (e.g., loss of hearing or problem with balance). It is closely related to neuro-otology that deals with neurological problems affecting the ears such as facial nerve paralysis and Meniere’s disease. It is also a subspecialty of otolaryngology, which is the branch of medicine pertaining to nose, ears, and throat.
Consider seeing an otologist if:
- You have been diagnosed with vertigo
- Your medications are causing vertigo
- Vertigo has worsened
It prevents you from living a normal life