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Vertigo - Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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Vertigo - Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

4 min read


Have you had the feeling of your surrounding spinning or moving around you? This feeling or symptom is called vertigo. Learn about its causes, treatment, and more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode

Published At December 14, 2019
Reviewed AtOctober 27, 2022

What Is Vertigo?

The symptom that makes a person feels that he or she is moving when they actually are not moving or has a sense of spinning dizziness or lightheadedness, is called vertigo. It is a symptom of various health conditions, such as problems in the inner ear or brain or nervous system. Vertigo can occur at any age, but it commonly affects people over 65 years of age. It can be either temporarily during pregnancy or ear infection. People with Ménière's disease (a disease affecting the inner ear) also suffer from vertigo.

If you have vertigo, you will feel as if the room is spinning around you. It is not a disease in itself, but a sign that you have some other health conditions. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease, and acute onset vertigo are the most common causes of vertigo.

What Are the Types of Vertigo?

The different types of vertigo are:

  1. Peripheral vertigo - The majority of cases (80%) are this type. It is generally due to problems in the inner ear. The organs of the inner ear send messages to the brain about the person's position. They also help people keep their balance while walking and standing up. Any alteration in this system results in vertigo. The common causes include BPPV, inner ear inflammation, infection, Ménière's disease, and acoustic neuroma.
  2. Central vertigo - Vertigo that results from problems in the central nervous system is called central vertigo. Any problem in the brainstem or cerebellum results in this type of vertigo. Vestibular migraine, demyelination, and CNS tumors are some common examples.

What Are the Symptoms of Vertigo?

Changing your head position is the most common trigger of vertigo. It feels like your head is spinning, swaying, tilting, you feel unbalanced and pulled to one side. The other symptoms that might be associated with vertigo are:

  • Nausea.
  • Sweating.
  • Vomiting.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Feeling of ear fullness.
  • Nystagmus (jerking eye movements).
  • Headache.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Hearing loss.

The symptoms may come and go or last for a few minutes to hours.

What Causes Vertigo?

Usually, an imbalance in the inner ear or problems with the central nervous system (CNS) leads to vertigo. The common conditions that can result in vertigo are:

  1. Labyrinthitis - Any ear infection that results in inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth is called labyrinthitis. The vestibulocochlear nerve is present in this area, which sends information about the head movements, position, and sound to the brain. Inflammation affects this exchange of information and results in vertigo. Labyrinthitis can also result in deafness, tinnitus, headaches, earaches, and changes in vision.
  2. Vestibular neuritis - Vestibular neuritis is the inflammation of the vestibular nerve due to an infection. The difference between this and labyrinthitis is that vestibular neuritis does not affect the hearing. Along with vertigo, it results in blurred vision, nausea, and balance problems.
  3. Cholesteatoma - It is a noncancerous skin growth that originates in the middle ear as a result of repeated infections. It can cause deafness and dizziness, as it grows and damages the bony structures of the middle ear.
  4. Ménière's disease - This condition causes fluid to buildup in the middle ear, which leads to vertigo and tinnitus. It commonly affects people between 40 and 60 years of age. This condition is believed to be caused due to blood vessel constriction or viral infection or autoimmune.
  5. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) - The vestibular labyrinth three semicircular canals, which contain fluid and hair-like sensors. The inner ear also contains otolith organs that contain fluid and crystals that are sensitive to gravity. When these crystals get dislodged and go into the semicircular canals, it touches the hair-like sensors during head movement. This results in the middle ear sending wrong information about the patient’s position, which results in vertigo.
  6. Pregnancy - Most pregnant women complain of nausea and dizziness. It is due to hormonal changes altering the fluid in the body. This can also alter the fluid in the inner ear resulting in vertigo, loss of balance, tinnitus, hearing problems, and ear fullness.
  7. Hereditary - Some genetic and hereditary conditions can result in vertigo, but as such, vertigo is not hereditary. Familial episodic ataxia, migrainous vertigo, bilateral vestibular hypofunction, and familial Ménière 's disease are some examples of conditions that run in families and cause vertigo.

The other conditions that can cause vertigo are:

  1. Perilymphatic fistula (inner ear fluid leaks into the middle ear)
  2. Migraines.
  3. Traumatic brain injury.
  4. Head injury.
  5. Brain stem disease.
  6. Acoustic neuroma (vestibulocochlear nerve benign growth).
  7. Ear surgery.
  8. Shingles.
  9. Otosclerosis (hearing loss due to middle ear bone growth problem).
  10. Syphilis.
  11. Ataxia.
  12. Using certain medications.
  13. Stroke.
  14. Multiple sclerosis.
  15. Prolonged bed rest.

How Is Vertigo Diagnosed?

To determine the cause of vertigo, your doctor will carry out a physical examination, and ask you about the factors that trigger dizziness. To diagnose the cause of vertigo, you might have to take the following tests:

  • Romberg's test - You have to stand with your arms by your sides and your feet together and close your eyes. If you become unsteady on closing your eyes, it is a sign of some CNS problem.
  • Fukuda-Unterberger's test - You have to march on a spot for 30 seconds with your eyes closed. If you turn to one side, it indicates a lesion in the inner ear.
  • Head CT or MRI scan.

How Is Vertigo Treated?

Usually, the treatment depends on the cause of vertigo. In most cases, vertigo gets better on its own as the brain adapts to the changes in the inner ear, and maintains balance through other mechanisms. And for some, one of the following treatment options might be necessary:

  1. Medicines - Medications are given to relieve nausea or motion sickness symptoms. Antibiotics and steroids are prescribed if vertigo is due to infection or inflammation. Diuretics are prescribed for Meniere's disease.
  2. Vestibular rehabilitation - It is a type of physical therapy that helps strengthen the vestibular system. This therapy will help if you have recurrent episodes of vertigo. It helps you train other senses, which compensates for vertigo.
  3. Canalith repositioning maneuvers - These are a series of specific head and body movements done for BPPV. These movements help move the calcium deposits into the inner ear chamber from the ear canal so that they can be absorbed by the body. A physiotherapist will guide you with these movements, and you might experience vertigo while performing them.
  4. Surgery - In some cases like tumor or injury to the brain or neck, vertigo needs surgery.

For more information on vertigo, consult a specialist online now!

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Triggers of Vertigo?

The following are the most common triggers of vertigo:
- Inner ear infections and any diseases of the ear.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
- Vestibular neuritis.
- Meniere's disease.


What Are the Common Signs of Vertigo?

The following are the most common clinical signs seen in a patient affected with vertigo:
- A feeling of being nauseated.
- Vomiting.
- Abnormal and random jerking eye movements which are termed as the nystagmus.
- Headache.
- Profuse sweating.
- Ringing sensation in the ears.
- Loss of hearing.


How Can I Fix My Vertigo?

The following are some methods by which you can try to fix your vertigo on your own:
- When you experience an attack of vertigo, immediately sit on the edge of your bed.
- Turn your head approximately 45 degrees to the right.
- Lie down quickly on your left side.
- Stay in the same position for about 30 seconds.
- Then, promptly move to lie down on the other end of your bed.
- Gently return to the sitting position and wait a few minutes.
- Reverse the same moves for the right ear.
- When you do not have a bed nearby, you can even do it on the floor.


How Can I Get Rid of Vertigo Fast?

You can get rid of your vertigo attack soon by trying out the following remedies:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take some sugar.
- Take medicines such as Dimenhydrinate and Meclizine under proper doctor’s prescription.
- When the above remedies do not resolve your vertigo, rush to the emergency department with someone's help and get checked, since it can be due to any severe underlying conditions.


Can Vertigo Go Away on Its Own?

If the symptoms you experience suggest benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), watchful waiting may be beneficial. With time benign paroxysmal positional vertigo may go away on its own. But when you treat your vertigo attack with a simple procedure in your doctor's clinic, it can usually stop your vertigo right away.


What Are the Best Medications for Vertigo?

The following are some best medicines prescribed by physicians all over the world to prevent and treat vertigo over a long period of time:
- Dimenhydrinate.
- Meclizine.


Which Fruit Is Good in Relieving Vertigo?

Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, and they can help in easing the various sensations that vertigo causes. It is advised that the patient can consume three to four fresh strawberries every day. Besides, another method is that the person can cut and place the berries in a cup of fresh yogurt throughout the night and consume it on the next day. This is because yogurt is a rich source of magnesium, and thus it helps to treat dizziness.


What Are the Foods I Should Avoid With Vertigo?

The following are the list of foods that are rich in its sodium content and has to be avoided by a person who is affected with vertigo:
- Soy sauce.
- Chips.
- Popcorn.
- Cheese.
- Pickles.
- Papad.
- Canned foods.
The patients are also advised to quit smoking as nicotine can constrict blood vessels and aggravate vertigo.


What Are the Different Types of Vertigo?

The following are the three different types of vertigo:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
- Labyrinthitis.
- Vestibular neuronitis.


What Are the Various Home Remedies That Can Treat Vertigo?

The following are easy exercise-oriented home remedies that can help in relieving vertigo:
- Epley maneuver.
- Semont-Toupet maneuver.
- Brandt-Daroff exercise.
- Ginkgo Biloba.
- Stress management.
- Yoga.
- An adequate amount of sleep.
- Increased hydration compared to normal.


When Should I Go to the Doctor if I Have Vertigo?

Usually, you are supposed to see your doctor when you experience symptoms of any recurrent, abrupt onset, severe, or chronic and unexplained dizziness or vertigo. Get immediate medical care if you suddenly experience severe dizziness or vertigo chiefly accompanied with symptoms of sudden or severe headache and chest pain.


Can Vertigo Indicate Something More Serious?

Yes, vertigo can indicate something more serious. Warning signs of serious complications include the following:
- Sudden vertigo is not affected by the change of position.
- Lack of muscle coordination or new weakness.
- Deafness and no history of Meniere's disease.


Can Vertigo Be a Sign of a Stroke?

A person who has vertigo symptoms, dizziness, and severe imbalance but without a weakness felt on one side of the body, cannot be a sign of stroke most of the time. In a patient with stroke, vertigo, or dizziness, an imbalance is usually noted to occur along with one side of the body's weakness. Thus vertigo alone cannot be a sign of stroke.


Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Vertigo?

In most people, headaches and tension are noted to be increased after having a poor quantity or quality of sleep. Frequently, this can be accompanied by a sense of dizziness and lightheadedness. Thus, It is always recommended for the patient to consult their doctor if this problem has been long. Also, various remedies to improve the quality and quantity of sleep can be practiced by the patient.


Can Vertigo Be a Sign of a Heart Attack?

Various health conditions like cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrest, heart arrhythmia, and transient ischemic attack could frequently present with dizziness symptoms. The reason behind this is that a decrease in blood supply can cause poor blood flow to your brain’s cerebellum or inner ear. These are the chief organs that help in maintaining balance. Thus when these organs are affected, dizziness can be seen.


Should I Go to the Hospital Immediately If I Have Vertigo?

If your dizziness is not resolving with time and it is not eased by lying down or if your balance is trembling, you should immediately reach the closest emergency department with the help of someone. Also, if you have any blurred vision or loss of vision, they are potential symptoms that warrant an immediate hospital visit. Driving on your own can lead to a road traffic accident since you might lack balance.


Can Overeating Sugar Cause Vertigo?

No increased sugar consumption can not cause vertigo because only a drop in blood sugar levels can cause dizziness. Blood sugar levels usually rise after a meal and relieve the symptoms of vertigo and dizziness.


What Symptoms Indicate Vertigo?

The following are the symptoms that are suggestive of vertigo:
- A sense of spinning.
- Loss of balance.
- Whirling sensation.
- Loss of balance.
- Associated nausea or vomiting.


Can Vertigo Be Treated Naturally?

Yes, mild vertigo can be treated naturally. Ginkgo biloba is a herb that is known to resolve the symptoms of vertigo. It usually works by managing blood flow to the brain in order to relieve dizziness and balance issues.


What Beverages Can Help Vertigo?

Any beverage that contains ginger in it can ease vertigo and its associated symptoms, such as nausea, lightheadedness, and vomiting. Drinking ginger tea every day is quite an effective method in treating vertigo.


Should I Worry About My Vertigo?

It would be best if you worried about your vertigo when it has the following characteristics:
- Sudden onset of vertigo.
- Recurrent episodes of severe vertigo.
- Associated symptoms of blurred vision, loss of vision, severe headache, or chest pain.


Can Physical Exercise trigger vertigo?

Yes, vertigo can be triggered by physical exercises. When a person regularly does activities that involve several head movements, it can lead to vertigo.


How Often Should I Do My Vertigo Exercises?

A patient diagnosed with vertigo exercises should do vertigo exercises from three to five times in a session. The person is advised to have three sessions a day for up to two weeks, or until the vertigo is completely gone for two days.
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Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode
Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode



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