What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is actually not a condition itself, but rather a symptom of a range of conditions. Vertigo basically refers to a sense of rotational dizziness where one feels that the environment around them is spinning or moving. This sensation may be very mild and barely noticeable or can even be so severe that one might find it very difficult to keep their balance while doing everyday tasks. Vertigo occurs when there is disturbance in the sensory nerve pathway, brain or ear. The most common symptoms of vertigo are motion sickness, dizziness, light headedness, vomiting, nausea, tinnitus, loss of balance, difficulty in standing and walking, a sense of fullness in the ear, etc. Vertigo attack can develop suddenly and last for some seconds, or persist for a longer duration. For people with severe vertigo, the symptoms can be constant and last for many days making it difficult for the individual to lead a regular life.
How Do You Get Vertigo?
Vertigo is a basically a symptom of many different conditions. Although vertigo can also be caused by problems in certain areas of the brain, it is generally triggered by an issue with the way balance works in the inner ear. There are two kinds of vertigo: Peripheral vertigo and central vertigo.
Peripheral Vertigo occurs with a disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear. When Peripheral vertigo is caused by certain head movements, it is known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Conditions such as severe migraine headaches and the ear infection called labyrinthitis, inflammation of vestibular nerve commonly called vestibular neuronitis, cholesteatoma and Ménière’s disease also trigger peripheral vertigo. Prolonged bed rest, ear surgery, inflammation, viral infection and head injury can give rise to peripheral vertigo too. Syphilis and drug toxicity can also cause inner ear disturbances. Other rare triggers of peripheral vertigo are Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, otosclerosis and perilymphatic fistula.
Central Vertigo is connected to problems in the central nervous system. It occurs when there is a disturbance in areas of the brain called sensory nerve pathways. The cerebellum and brain stem are areas of the brain that are responsible for the interaction between the sense of vision and balance. Any disturbance in these areas can cause vertigo. Further any disturbance in the part of the brain called thalamus also negatively affects the regular to and fro movement of the sensory messages and gives rise to vertigo. Migraine, Acoustic neuroma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebellar brain tumour and transient ischemic attack are some of the other causes of central vertigo.
What Can Make Vertigo Worse?
Alcohol, chocolate and caffeine consumption and tobacco can heighten vertigo symptoms. Fatigue, activities that involve looking upwards, high salt diet, diuretics, stress, anxiety, depression and other medical conditions can aggravate vertigo too. These must be avoided to keep vertigo in control. Tinnitus and migraine should be treated without delay as these can also worsen vertigo. Driving and climbing heights can aggravate vertigo symptoms like motion sickness, nausea and dizziness and increase the risk of accidents and falls too. The vertigo patient should avoid these activities to stay safe and keep their vertigo in control.
How Can Vertigo Be Treated?
Although certain types of vertigo resolve without any treatment, it is important to address the underlying problem of vertigo like bacterial or viral infections, etc. Drugs like antihistamines, vestibular suppressants and anti-emetics can help to relieve the symptoms of vertigo, like nausea and motion sickness effectively. Patients suffering from extreme vertigo due to middle ear infection may need to take steroids, antiviral drugs or antibiotics for relief. If the vertigo is triggered by BPPV, a technique called Epley maneuver or canalith repositioning can help to manage the condition. Alternative treatments such as acupressure, acupuncture and herbal supplements like Gingko Biloba have also proven to be effective in treating vertigo. However, all these treatments should only be tried under the supervision and recommendation of a medical expert.
Vertigo can undoubtedly be a very frustrating problem that can hinder the regular day to day activities of the individual and should thus be addressed without any delay. With the right lifestyle, dietary habits, treatments and medical supervision, vertigo can be treated and managed effectively.
- “Vertigo (Dizziness).” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vertigo/symptoms-causes/syc-20370055
- “Understanding Vertigo and Its Causes.” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/vertigo#causes