What 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 are the symptoms of vertigo?
If you have vertigo, it may feel like you are spinning, swaying or feeling unbalanced. People with vertigo may also have:
Some activities can bring on an attack of vertigo. These involve quickly moving your head into a certain position, such as when looking up, getting out of bed and bending over.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use our dizziness and lightheadedness Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
What causes vertigo?
Vertigo is often 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 inner ear problems that can cause vertigo are Meniere’s disease, where there is associated tinnitus and hearing loss, and 2 conditions that involved swelling or infection of the inner ear, vestibular neuronitis and labyrinthitis.
Other causes of vertigo include head injuries, circulation problem and infections.
How is vertigo treated?
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 (balance) 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.
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Last reviewed: January 2020