What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo is the sensation of spinning and a specific kind of dizziness. It’s the sense that you or your environment is moving or spinning when in actuality there is no movement. People commonly classify vertigo with other types of dizziness. By pinpointing its causes, you can see how it differentiates from other types of dizziness.

Vertigo is often triggered by a position change of your head. When experiencing vertigo, people often describe it as feeling that they are:

  • Spinning
  • Tilting
  • Swaying
  • Unbalanced
  • Pulling to one direction

There are other symptoms people commonly describe such as nausea, headaches, body sweats, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or abnormal eye movements. Any of these symptoms can last from a few minutes to few hours and unfortunately come and go.

There are two causes of vertigo. It is brought on by the disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear, or a disturbance in parts of the brain or sensory nerve pathways. The disturbance in the inner ear brings on peripheral vertigo. Inside the ear are organs that send messages to the brain in response to gravity. We are able to tell our brains when there is movement in the vertical position, allowing us to keep balance. Disturbance or inflammation of these organs produces the sensation that is vertigo. This type of vertigo can be caused by a calcium build-up in the inner ear canals. The build-up could be caused by a trauma to the head.

A disturbance of the central nervous system produces central vertigo. There are two areas involving a disturbance that can cause central vertigo. One area is the parts of the brain that deal with interaction between the senses of vision and balance. The other area is an interruption of sensory messages to and from the thalamus part of the brain.

Fortunately, vertigo can be something that only occurs once. However, if it becomes a recurring instance, you should seek medical treatment by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. It is important to get it checked out because dizziness can be a symptom of a serious brain problem (stroke, brain bleed, etc.). Vertigo treatments can be done by certain prescription medications such as calcium channel blockers or beta blockers. Others can just seek physical therapy treatment where patients are taught a series of exercises that position the head to move particles in the inner ear.

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