Have you ever felt like the world was physically spinning beneath your feet? Where you had difficulty moving or balancing until it stopped? If so, you have likely experienced vertigo. Vertigo refers to a sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving. It can cause dizziness, a loss of balance, nausea, and vomiting. Vertigo can also be associated with migraines and headaches. On average, the symptoms of vertigo typically last one minute.
There are different types of vertigo depending on the underlying cause. Peripheral vertigo is a result of an imbalance within the inner ear. Structures in the human ear, referred to as otolith organs, register the movements and the position of your head as it relates to gravity through calcium crystals. These crystals can become dislodged and move into one of the ear canals. This usually happens while lying down because of the increase in sensitivity to head position changes.
Central vertigo is caused by disturbances in the sensory nerve pathways in the brain, particularly the brain stem or cerebellum. According to Dr. Scott Eggers from the Mayo Clinic, vertigo symptoms are typically accompanied by abnormal rhythmic eye movements which occurs when the inner ear balance system is stimulated in the wrong way.
According to the Mayo Clinic, vertigo sometimes has no known cause. When there is a cause, it is usually related to a minor or severe blow to the head.
William Blahd, MD, says that treatment for vertigo can vary depending on the cause and the seriousness. They range from stretching to movements for the head and body, to medication, and even surgery. Specific head and body movements are recommended from the American Academy of Neurology which aim to reposition the crystals out of the canal to the inner ear chamber where they can be absorbed by the body. It is expected that the patient will experience vertigo symptoms during the procedure when the crystals move. But the movements are safe and effective when guided by a doctor or physical therapist.
Medication can be prescribed for one of two reasons. The first is to treat the symptoms of nausea or motion sickness. The second is to treat the underlying cause and reduce swelling or pressure. Blahd says that surgery is an extremely rare treatment for vertigo and usually only when the vertigo is caused by a tumor or injury to the brain or neck, in which cases, treatment of the underlying cause would result in a decrease in the vertigo symptoms.
Vertigo is very uncomfortable, but rarely causes complications. However, the associated dizziness can increase the risk of falling, which can lead to more severe injuries.
For people living an active life, experiencing vertigo can prevent individuals from participating in certain activities due to a fear of potential consequences. Vertigo can also be dangerous for anyone driving. According to the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology, you should seek medical help if you are experiencing recurring symptoms of vertigo, as many underlying causes of vertigo can be harmful if not treated accordingly.