Vertigo is a sensation of moving or having the room moving around you. It is often described as a spinning sensation. It can cause nausea and if severe enough, vomiting. If you ever over-indulged in alcohol when younger or participated in a game where they had you spin around several times quickly, you will know what that feels like. Episodes of vertigo can be brief, lasting only a few seconds, or can last for a few days. Vertigo can also be accompanied by Nystagmus, a rapid beating of the eyes back and forth.
The most important thing to know about vertigo, is that vertigo is NOT a disorder on its own. Vertigo is a symptom. If you are experiencing vertigo, then there is another cause. There are several causes of vertigo.
Some medications, most often heavy-duty painkillers, but also particularly those than effect the nervous system, blood pressure, or the amount of fluids we retain can have vertigo or dizziness as a side effect.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
In this condition, little calcium particles/crystals become dislodged from their normal location and start to travel through the semicircular canals in the ear. When we move, they disturb the fluid in the canals and send conflicting information to the brain about direction and speed of movement. The brain become confused and we get dizzy.
Caused by a buildup of fluid and increased pressure in the inner ear.
Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis
This is an infection of the inner ear or vestibular nerve causing swelling.
Also: Head or neck injury, brain problems such as stroke or tumor, migraine headaches
How is vertigo treated?
How vertigo is treated depends on the cause. There are some simple things you can do at home to reduce the effects of vertigo such as not standing up too quickly, not bending over, sleeping propped up on two pillows or inclining your bed if possible, not stretching your neck upwards too much, and no sudden head turns. In some cases, medications are prescribed such as antihistamines, Dramamine, etc. These are useful in managing the symptoms of vertigo. To try stop the vertigo, you need to treat the underlying cause of it. That means you might need to change one or more of your medications, or get treatment for BPPV or some other disorder.
No matter the cause, if you are experiencing vertigo, you should be evaluated by a physician, preferably an ENT. He may refer you for hearing and balance testing, as well as x-rays to determine the cause of the problem.