Vertigo is different from dizziness.  Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or moving, or feeling as though the world is spinning around you.  Dizziness is when there is an imbalance within your own space.  Vertigo is also different from being lightheaded.  It can feel very similar to motion sickness.  Vertigo can interfere with your quality of life.  It can stop you from being able to drive, work, or do daily activities.  

There are two different types of vertigo.  The most common type is peripheral vertigo.  It is caused by an inner ear problem or a vestibular nerve problem.  Peripheral vertigo can be caused by Benign positional vertigo, medications, injury, inflammation of the vestibular nerve, irritation or swelling of the inner ear, or Meniere’s disease.  The second type of vertigo is Central.  Central vertigo is caused when there is a problem in the brain.  Central vertigo is caused by a stroke, brain tumor, migraine, traumatic brain injury, infection, or multiple sclerosis.


Symptoms Of Vertigo 

Symptoms of vertigo can come and go.  Sometimes they may last only for a few minutes, but may last up to a few hours.  Vertigo symptoms are usually triggered by a head position change.  This can be from laying down to sitting, or even from sitting to standing.  Sometimes symptoms can be brought on just by turning your head in a different direction. 

Symptoms of vertigo are the feeling of spinning, tilting, swaying, feeling unbalanced, feeling as though you are being pulled to one direction, feeling nauseous, abnormal eye movement, headache, swelling, ringing in ears, hearing loss in one or both ears, or increased sweating.  

When symptoms start to occur is it best to keep still and lie down.  Gradually resume your activity.  Avoid sudden position changes.  When you are having vertigo symptoms avoid trying to read, and avoid bright lights.  It is important when you have vertigo to avoid driving, climbing, or operating heavy machinery until you have been symptom free for an entire week.  



When being diagnosed your doctor may run a number of different tests and exams on you.  Some of the tests are blood test, brainstem auditory evoked potential studies, caloric stimulation, Electroencephalogram, Electronystagmography, head CT, lumbar puncture, MRI scan, and a gait test.  When running these tests your doctor will be looking for problems walking, abnormal eye movement, hearing loss, lack of coordination, and weakness. 



When going to treat your vertigo, treating any underlying conditions first is the first place to start.  Sometimes vertigo will go away on its own because your brain will find another way to balance instead of using the inner ear. 

One treatment option is vestibular rehabilitation.  This is a form of physical therapy that helps strengthen the vestibular system.  Your vestibular system is in charge of sending signals to the brain about the head and body movements. 

Another treatment option is canalith repositioning maneuvers.  These are specific head and body movements that you will hold for about 30-60 seconds and then repeat if necessary.  A doctor or physical therapist will guide you through the movements.  In time you may be able to do the movements yourself at home.  These movements will help any calcium deposit buildup that is in the inner ear be broken up and pushed out of the inner ear.  When doing the movements it is normal to have symptoms occur.  This is normal but in time the symptoms should get better. 

Medications can also help treat vertigo.  Antihistamine medications that are also beneficial with motion sickness, antibiotics if there is an infection causing your vertigo, and anti nausea medications can help if you have extreme nausea as a symptom. 

In some severe cases surgery may be necessary.  This is usually the case if there is a brain tumor or a head injury that is causing your vertigo.  


Risk Factors

Vertigo is very common in pregnancy.  Especially in the first trimester.  Causes of vertigo in pregnancy are fluctuations in hormones, prolonged bed rest, and changes in the metabolism of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.  Knowing the difference between vertigo and dizziness is important, especially in pregnancy because both can occur.  Vertigo can carry over into the second trimester in some cases. 

When experiencing vertigo in pregnancy it is important to stay hydrated, to keep a light on when you get out of bed, to wear breathable and comfortable clothing, and to keep moving to help promote circulation. 



Vertigo can affect anyone.  It is different from dizziness or being lightheaded.  It gives you the sensation of the world spinning around you instead of you feeling imbalance within your own space.  You can have vertigo even when lying down but symptoms are usually brought on from the change in positioning of the head.  Treatment options are available though in some cases it resolves on its own.  


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