Vertigo is a sensation of spinning. If you have these dizzy spells, you might feel like you are spinning or that the world around you is spinning.
Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo is often caused by an inner ear problem. Some of the most common causes include:
BPPV. These initials stand for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium particles (canaliths) clump up in canals of the inner ear. The inner ear sends signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity. It helps you keep your balance.
BPPV can occur for no known reason and may be associated with age.
Meniere's disease. This is an inner ear disorder thought to be caused by a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the ear. It causes episodes of vertigo along with ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.
Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis. This is an inner ear problem usually related to infection (usually viral). The infection causes inflammation in the inner ear around nerves that are important for helping the body sense balance
Less often vertigo may be associated with:
- Head or neck injury
- Brain problems such as stroke or tumor
- Certain medications that cause ear damage
- Migraine headaches
Symptoms of Vertigo
Vertigo is often triggered by a change in the position of your head.
People with vertigo typically describe it as feeling like they are:
- Pulled to one direction
Other symptoms that may accompany vertigo include:
- Feeling nauseated
- Abnormal or jerking eye movements (nystagmus)
- Ringing in the ears or hearing loss
Symptoms can last a few minutes to a few hours or more and may come and go.
Treatment for Vertigo
Treatment for vertigo depends on what's causing it. In many cases, vertigo goes away without any treatment. This is because your brain is able to adapt, at least in part, to the inner ear changes, relying on other mechanisms to maintain balance.
For some, treatment is needed and may include:
Vestibular rehabilitation. This is a type of physical therapy aimed at helping strengthen the vestibular system. The function of the vestibular system is to send signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity.
Vestibular rehab may be recommended if you have recurrent bouts of vertigo. It helps train your other senses to compensate for vertigo.
Canalith repositioning maneuvers. Guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology recommend a series of specific head and body movements for BPPV. The movements are done to move the calcium deposits out of the canal into an inner ear chamber so they can be absorbed by the body. You will likely have vertigo symptoms during the procedure as the canaliths move.
A doctor or physical therapist can guide you through the movements. The movements are safe and effective. They relieve BPPV in eight out of 10 cases.
Medicine. In some cases, medication may be given to relieve symptoms such as nausea or motion sickness associated with vertigo.
If vertigo is caused by an infection or inflammation, antibiotics or steroids may reduce swelling and cure infection.
For Meniere's disease, a very low sodium diet; or diuretics (water pills) may be prescribed to reduce pressure from fluid buildup.
IIn a few cases, steroid gel infusion may be needed for vertigo.
If vertigo is caused by a more serious underlying problem, such as a tumor or injury to the brain or neck, treatment for those problems often helps to alleviate the vertigo.
Lightheadedness is a feeling that you are about to faint or "pass out." Although you may feel dizzy, you do not feel as though you or your surroundings are moving. Lightheadedness often goes away or improves when you lie down. If lightheadedness gets worse, it can lead to a feeling of almost fainting or a fainting spell (syncope). You may sometimes feel nauseated or vomit when you are lightheaded.
It is common to feel lightheaded from time to time. Lightheadedness usually is not caused by a serious problem. It often is caused by a momentary drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your head that occurs when you get up too quickly from a seated or lying position (orthostatic hypotension).
Lightheadedness has many causes, including:
- Illnesses such as the flu or colds. Home treatment of your flu and cold symptoms usually will relieve lightheadedness.
- Vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, and other illnesses that cause dehydration.
- Very deep or rapid breathing (hyperventilation).
- Anxiety and stress.
- The use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
A more serious cause of lightheadedness is bleeding. Most of the time, the location of the bleeding and the need to seek medical care are obvious. But sometimes bleeding is not obvious (occult bleeding). You may have small amounts of bleeding in your digestive tract over days or weeks without noticing the bleeding. When this happens, lightheadedness and fatigue may be the first noticeable symptoms that you are losing blood. Heavy menstrual bleeding also can cause this type of lightheadedness.
An uncommon cause of lightheadedness is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), which can cause fainting spells (syncope). Unexplained fainting spells need to be evaluated by a doctor. You can check your heart rate by taking your pulse .
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause lightheadedness or vertigo. The degree of lightheadedness or vertigo that a medicine causes will vary.