What is Vertigo?

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Vertigo is a clinical condition characterized by dizziness. Contrary to other clinical conditions, vertigo is not a disease. It is only a symptom of a balance disorder or of other underlying medical conditions that may require immediate medical attention and treatment. Typically, people who have this condition may either feel that they are moving or that everything around them is moving even though no movement is taking place. In short, vertigo is an illusion or hallucination of movement.

Types of Vertigo

Vertigo is classified into three main types: spontaneous vertigo, recurrent attacks of vertigo and positional vertigo. The most common type among the three is positional vertigo. Positional vertigo causes a person to feel a sense of spinning or dizziness when the head is resting in certain positions (e.g., lying on one side). With other types of vertigo, the illusion of movement and dizziness may be felt when the sufferer moves their head.

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is primarily caused by a disorder in the balance or equilibrium of a person’s system. It can be caused by a number of factors, the most common of which is BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Other common causes include, but are not limited to: bacterial or viral infection in the inner ear, severe migraines, inhalation or ingestion of toxic substances, tumors, cerebellar hemorrhage, Ménière's disease, ingestion of drugs or alcohol, abnormal pressures in the body and other brain problems. Vertigo may also be caused by motion sickness, or other problems concerning the ear, such as calcium deposits, labyrinthitis, herpes zoster and inflamed vestibular nerves. Circulatory problems, as well as neurological disorders including skull fractures and multiple sclerosis, may also lead to vertigo.

Vertigo Symptoms

The duration of vertigo symptoms may vary, as can the severity. Some symptoms may last only a few minutes, while others extend for several days. Other symptoms may be very mild, while others cause extreme inconvenience to the person experiencing them.

Identifying Vertigo

Vertigo is often identified by spells of dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, double vision and jerky eye movements. The condition may also be associated with uncoordinated movements, constant headaches, unsteadiness and weakness in the arms or legs. Light-headedness and loss of balance may also be experienced, leading to difficulty in walking or standing. Most of all, the feeling that everything around the individual is moving or that they are moving themselves seems to be ever-present.

Treatment

Treatment for vertigo may vary from person to person and quite often depends on the symptoms and causes of the condition. When treating this disorder, the duration of the symptoms is also considered by physicians. In less severe cases, the patient may be given medication, such as anti-emetic drugs and vestibular suppressants. Anti-emetic drugs are medications that serve to control nausea, while vestibular suppressants provide relief to nystagmus, a condition caused by imbalance in the body. Other medications often used are antihistamines, sedative hypnotics and anticholinergics. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

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