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Vertigo often feels like you are spinning.

Vertigo often feels like you are spinning.
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Vertigo

2-minute read

Vertigo is a sensation of movement or spinning, tilting or swaying. While there are some serious causes of vertigo, usually it just gets better with time.

What it is vertigo?

Vertigo is a type of dizziness that is often described as feeling that you are spinning or that the world is spinning around you, particularly if you change position.

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo is the result of an inner ear problem. The most common cause is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV occurs when tiny calcium particles clump together in the part of the inner ear that helps control our balance, affecting the messages sent from your inner ear to your brain.

Other causes of vertigo include head injuries, stroke, circulation problems, infections, inner ear disorders, and the degeneration of inner ear structures. Inner ear problems include Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis. Vestibular neuritis is a swelling or infection of the nerve supplying a bone in the inner ear, and labyrinthitis is a swelling or infection of the inner ear.

Vertigo symptoms

If you have vertigo, it may feel like you are spinning, swaying or feeling unbalanced. People with vertigo may also have:

  • ringing in the ears
  • nausea
  • headache
  • sweating

Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

Vertigo treatment

Treatment depends on the cause. In most cases vertigo goes away without treatment. Stress can increase symptoms of dizziness and nausea, and reducing stress can help reduce the symptoms.

If symptoms persist see your doctor. They may recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation or balance training – this is a type of physical therapy that strengthens the vestibular system.
  • Canalith repositioning measures – this is useful if the cause is BPPV. The treatment moves calcium deposits out of the canal so they can be absorbed by the body.
  • Medicine – motion sickness medication can be used to relieve some symptoms of vertigo such as nausea, and antibiotics can treat a bacterial infection. Diuretics, or water pills, may be prescribed to reduce the swelling associated with Meniere’s disease.
  • Surgery – surgery is only needed in a few cases.

Sources:

Victorian Government (Vertigo (BPPV)), MyDr (Vertigo), Mayo Clinic (Meniere's disease), Mayo Clinic (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)), Cochrane (The Epley (canalith repositioning) manoeuvre for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), myDr (Ear Anatomy), Researchgate (Evaluation of booklet-based self-management of symptoms in Ménière disease: A randomized controlled trial), Cochrane (Vestibular rehabilitation for unilateral peripheral vestibular dysfunction)

Last reviewed: December 2017

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