What is vertigo? Essentially vertigo indicates a sense of false movement. It’s a condition where you feel a loss of balance and dizziness. When vertigo hits you will feel as if the entire world around you is spinning, swaying, or moving uncontrollably.
This sense of dizziness and off balance can cause nausea and other symptoms. This condition can either be temporary or permanent and it affects elderly people the most.
A lot of people often get vertigo confused with just being dizzy. Dizziness and vertigo are not the same even though vertigo can cause you to feel dizzy.
Vertigo is a consistent feeling of tilting or swirling motion even though you are sitting perfectly still or standing in one place. When you experience vertigo your body will feel as if it is moving or you will feel as if the objects around you are moving.
In some cases vertigo is really a symptom instead of a condition itself. When you have a vertigo attack the spinning or moving sensation you experience may be severe or it may not even be that noticeable. Most of the time vertigo will feel as if it came out of nowhere.
Some people will experience vertigo attacks that lasts them several days while others will experience attacks that lasts just a few minutes. It all depends on the cause of vertigo and what causes your vertigo will depend on the type of vertigo you’re suffering from.
Types of Vertigo
There are two main types of vertigo that can affect a person and these include Peripheral Vertigo and Central Vertigo. The type of vertigo you are dealing with will determine the cause, symptoms, severity, duration of attacks, and treatments of the condition.
Peripheral vertigo is definitely the most common out of the two. In peripheral vertigo an inner-ear disorder is to blame.
Some of the most common inner ear problems that causes peripheral vertigo include:
- meniere’s disease
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- vestibular neuronitis
Meniere’s disease is a condition that doctors aren’t really sure what causes it, but stress and what you eat daily can be a trigger. With BPPV small crystals in the inner ear get loose and begin to float around causing you to feel dizzy. The most common cause of BPPV is an injury to the ear. In vestibular neuronitis an infection of the ear is what causes it.
Other inner ear problems that can cause peripheral vertigo are labyrinthitis, perilymph fistula, and superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (SSCDS).
Some of the symptoms of peripheral vertigo and central vertigo are the same. In peripheral vertigo you will experience the following symptoms:
- ear problems
- inner ear infection
- inner ear disease
- hearing loss
Another common symptom of peripheral vertigo is uncontrollable eye movements that will go away once you focus your vision on a fixed point.
One of the most common ways doctors will determine if it is peripheral vertigo you’re suffering from is by determining if the vertigo attacks you’re experiencing begins without warning and then abruptly stops just as suddenly. If this is the case then doctors will determine that it is peripheral vertigo you’re experiencing and not central vertigo.
When it comes to central vertigo the most common cause is a problem inside the brain, primarily the back part of your brain also known as the cerebellum. If doctors suspect that you are suffering from central vertigo then they will order a CT scan or magnetic resonance imagining of your brain to investigate further.
Some of the most common problems in the brain that can lead to the development of central vertigo include:
- multiple sclerosis
- tumors of the brain
- illness or infection of the brain
- injuries of the head
One of the biggest differences between peripheral vertigo and central vertigo is how long it lasts. Peripheral vertigo attacks usually don’t last that long, while central vertigo will last for extended periods of time.
Moreover, the central vertigo attacks will usually be much more intense compared to those brought on by peripheral. Those who experience central vertigo attacks often have a hard time standing or walking without assistance.
As mentioned earlier, a common symptom for both types of vertigo is uncontrollable eye movements. However, in central vertigo this abnormal eye movement, also known as nystagmus will last much longer compared to peripheral vertigo where it will stop once you focus your eyes on one location.
In central vertigo these abnormal eye movements will last for weeks or months and won’t go away when you focus on a fixed point. Those with central vertigo usually won’t experience any hearing problems like what often occurs in peripheral vertigo. However, central vertigo will cause symptoms such as problems swallowing, headaches, and weakness.
What triggers a vertigo attack will depend, but starting down from a high place, staring upwards at a tall object, changing directions while walking, and changes in your visual perspective can often trigger a vertigo attack.
The only way to prevent vertigo is to avoid the trigger. Visual fixation is a method that can help prevent vertigo attacks by fixing your eyes on a specific point.
Proper diagnosis of vertigo is necessary in order to distinguish vertigo from other forms of dizziness. To make this distinction doctors will ask a series of questions such as “did you feel dizzy or did you feel as if the environment around you was spinning?”
The doctor diagnosing you will also ask about the symptoms you’re experiencing such as nausea, tinnitus, vomiting, and hearing loss. Even though these are different symptoms of vertigo they can help determine what’s causing the problem.
During the diagnosis doctors will also ask about any medications you’re taking, family history of migraines or Meniere’s disease, and if you have had any recent ear infections or head injuries.
Other questions that may be asked include how and when the vertigo first occurred, how often and how long does an attack usually last, how severe the the vertigo attacks are, what do you think triggers the attacks, is there anything that makes the attacks worse, and does anything help improve the symptoms you’re experiencing.
To help determine what’s causing the vertigo doctors may perform some scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerised tomography (CT). Some physical examinations may be performed to help with the diagnosis as well.
Physical examination can include looking into the ear for inner ear problems, maneuvers to recreate vertigo, and test for nystagmus. The Dix-Hallpike test, head impulse test, romberg’s test, and unterberger’s test are some of the commonly used physical examinations used to distinguish vertigo from other forms of dizziness.
Treatment for vertigo will once again depend on the type of vertigo and the cause of the problem. However, there are home remedies for vertigo that include herbs, exercises, diet changes, ginger, and essential oils. There are also medical treatments that include medications and surgery to help stop vertigo attacks.