Vertigo: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

The ear is a vital organ as it does much more than the hearing function. The ear is responsible for balance and can be affected by Vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom, rather than a condition of an underlying medical issue. It is the feeling of off-balance that makes you feel like you are spinning or that the environment around you is spinning.

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is generally caused by problems with the way balance works in the inner ear (peripheral vertigo), or it can also be caused by problems in the brain or nervous system (central vertigo). Certain risk factors and other medical issues can also lead to episodes of vertigo.

Common Reasons Why People Get Vertigo

Knowing the cause of vertigo, symptoms can help you, and your doctor comes up with an effective treatment plan. Vertigo can occur due to a variety of problems.

  1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo(BPPV): This is the most common cause of vertigo. It occurs when small crystals break free and float inside the tubes of the inner ear called the semicircular canals. BPPV results in short episodes of vertigo that usually comes up suddenly and last for few seconds or few minutes. Sometimes certain head movements like a minor or severe blow to the head may trigger episodes of vertigo in people with BPPV.
  2. Labyrinthitis: This condition is also referred to as “vestibular neuritis” it is caused by irritation and swelling of the inner ear. This is mostly caused by an inner ear infection or virus. People with labyrinthitis often suffer from sudden vertigo symptoms and loss of hearing.
  3. Meniere’s Disease: This disease is mostly caused by excess fluid buildup in the inner ear. People with Meniere’s disease often suffer from sudden and intense episodes of vertigo that can last for a long time. Sometimes they may also have symptoms like ringing in the ears and hearing loss. Meniere’s disease can also be linked to viral infections of the inner ear, allergies, and head injuries.

Other causes of vertigo may include:

  1. Cholesteatoma: This condition is mostly caused by irregular skin growth in the middle ear or behind the eardrum and can be brought on by repeated ear infections or chronic ear infections.
  2. Otosclerosis: This condition causes abnormal bone growth in the middle ear that can, later on, result in hearing loss.
  3. Stroke: Blood clot or bleeding that occur in the brain known as a stroke can also cause symptoms of vertigo.
  4. Perilymphatic Fistula: This condition causes an abnormal connection between the middle ear and the inner ear which allows fluid to leak into the middle ear. it is usually caused by a tear or defect inside the ear.
  5. Acoustic Neuroma: It is a noncancerous tumor that grows on the main nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. This can also lead to episodes of vertigo.
  6. Multiple Sclerosis(MS): Most people who suffer from this neurological disease called MS tend to experience episodes of vertigo at some point.
  7. Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s disease can affect movement and balance, and since vertigo is caused by imbalance, people with this disease may also experience symptoms of vertigo.
  8. Migraine: Some people who have migraines also have problems with dizziness or balance sometimes. This may be known as “migraine-associated vertigo.”
  9. Diabetes: In some diabetic patients, complications from the condition can cause hardening of the arteries and may lead to less blood flow to the brain. This can also lead to vertigo symptoms.
  10. Pregnancy: During pregnancy, dizziness and vertigo may crop up due to hormone changes, low blood sugar levels and pressure on blood vessels caused by an expanding uterus or the baby pressing on a vein that carries blood to the heart.
  11. Chiari Malformation: This is a condition where brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. This can cause symptoms of vertigo.
  12. Syphilis: This sexually transmitted infection can lead to dizziness and hearing loss which is a symptom of vertigo.
  13. Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety and panic attacks may sometimes cause people to feel symptoms of vertigo. And stress can make this condition worse.
  14. Brain Tumor: A tumor in the area of the brain called the cerebellum can result in vertigo symptoms.
  15. Changes in Air Pressure: When flying or diving underwater, people often experience a change in pressure between the middle ear cavities which can result in vertigo symptoms or a condition known as alternobaric vertigo.
  16. Allergies: Some people experience dizziness or vertigo attacks when they are exposed to certain allergens, such as dust, molds, pollens or foods.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Knowing vertigo symptoms may help you choose the right treatment option for it. Symptoms can last a few minutes, hours or more and may come and go. Most people with vertigo describe the feeling like they are;

  1. Spinning
  2. Being swayed
  3. Unbalanced
  4. Being pulled to one direction
  5. Tilting

Other symptoms that may accompany vertigo include the following;

  1. Feeling nauseated
  2. Vomiting
  3. Jerking eye movements (nystagmus)
  4. Headache/Migraines
  5. Ringing in the ears or hearing loss

Treatment options for Vertigo

Treatment for vertigo depends on what is causing it. But in most cases, vertigo symptoms may go away without any treatment. This is because the brain is able to adapt at least in part, to the inner ear changes and relying on other mechanisms to maintain balance.

For some, treatment is needed, and these treatments options may include;

  1. Vestibular Rehabilitation: This is a type of physical therapy aimed at strengthening the vestibular system. The function of the vestibular system is to send signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity. The vestibular rehabilitation may be recommended if you have recurrent bouts of vertigo. It helps train your other senses to compensate for vertigo.
  2. Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers: This is a series of specific head and body movements for BPPV. The movements are done in order to move the calcium deposits out of the ear canal into an inner ear chamber so they can be absorbed by the body. You may likely have vertigo episodes during the procedure as the canaliths move. A doctor or therapist can guide you through the movements. The movements are safe and often effective.
  3. Medicine: Medication may be given to relieve symptoms of vertigo in some cases, such as nausea or motion sickness associated with vertigo.
  4. Vertigo caused by an infection or inflammation, the affected person, may take antibiotics or steroids which may reduce swelling and cure the infection.
  5. Meniere’s disease: Diuretics (ear drops) may be prescribed to help reduce pressure from fluid buildup.
  6. Surgery: Surgery may be needed for vertigo in some cases.
  7. If vertigo is caused by a more serious underlying problem, like tumor or injury to the brain or neck, treatment for those problems may help alleviate the symptoms of vertigo.

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