A sudden sensation of feeling off-balance or an internal or external spinning, usually incited by moving the head too swiftly or a change in the position of your head is referred to as vertigo. If you experience this quite frequently then it is suggested to seek help. Vertigo is often misunderstood as a sign of fatigue, giddiness or imbalance.
There are two major types of vertigo –
- Peripheral vertigo: It is a type when there is a problem in your inner ear which maintains balance of a body.
- Central vertigo: This condition is experienced when there is a dysfunction in one’s central nervous system, where the person sees movement in the surroundings, spinning and other such uncomfortable scenarios.
What causes vertigo?
Vertigo usually occurs due to certain issues with the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for sending signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity as well as for maintaining the balance. Some of the common causes of inner ear problems include:
- Inflammation within the inner ear because of a viral or bacterial inner ear infection.
- Due to BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) in which tiny calcium particles cluster up in canals of the inner ear.
- Meniere’s disease, which is also an inner ear disorder, is thought to be caused by a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the inner ear.
- Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis, the infection that leads to inflammation in the inner ear around nerves that are important for helping the body sense balance
- Certain medications that cause ear damage
Apart from the inner ear, some other causes that can lead to vertigo are:
– Complications from diabetes
– Migraine headaches
– Reduced blood flow to the base of the brain
– Head trauma and neck injury
– A problem in the brain like a stroke or tumor
– Multiple sclerosis
Symptoms of vertigo:
Symptoms in vertigo can last a few minutes or few hours. Some of the symptoms that a person is likely to experience if he/she is suffering from vertigo include:
- A feeling of spinning, tilting, swaying, unbalanced or being pulled in one direction
- Loss of hearing and a ringing sensation in the ears
- Visual disturbances
- Difficulty in speaking
- A decreased level of consciousness
- Struggle in walking
- Abnormal or jerking eye movements
Vertigo is diagnosed generally through medical history and a physical exam. CT scans, blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electrocardiogram (ECG) is also likely to be performed. Treatment for vertigo also depends on its diagnosed cause. If the symptoms are observed, one should consult a doctor and never adopt self-medication or home therapy.
- Certain risk factors that have been noted to enhance the risk of vertigo-associated disease (VAD) include:
- Cardiovascular diseases specifically in elderly people
- Recent ear infection, especially if the inner ear is affected
- Head trauma history
- Certain medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics
Since the cause can differ, detailed examination is required to decipher vertigo and its reason, therefore one must not self-medicate or opt for home remedies when it comes to vertigo. Even counter medication is not advised as after identifying symptoms, a proper diagnosis is a must by a professional doctor who will accordingly proceed with the treatment.
People generally tend to ignore vertigo and not take it seriously. This is so because vertigo has several misconceptions and myths around it. Some of the misconceptions about vertigo which are not true include:
- Vertigo is a fear of heights
- Vertigo is a problem with the brain
- Vertigo subsides on its own
- Vertigo means light headedness
Because of these existing misconceptions, people generally either do not seek timely medical help or tend to self-medicate vertigo. However, it is essential to let the doctor examine your condition and understand the type or cause of vertigo better and treat it properly.
(Disclaimer: The author is Dr. Rohit Udaya, ENT & Cochlear Implant Surgeon, Aster RV Hospital. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)