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Vertigo: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Vertigo: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Vertigo is a feeling of off-balance or sensation of dizziness. A variety of conditions causes it. The below article details the same.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At March 14, 2018
Reviewed AtApril 24, 2023

What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a common issue that refers to a sensation of being dizzy or feeling off-balance. It can cause a feeling that the environment around a person is spinning in circles. Vertigo is not a disorder. Instead, it is a symptom of varying conditions. Vertigo attacks can affect people of any age, but they are more common in older individuals. Women are more likely to be affected by vertigo than men. Some women may experience vertigo as a side effect of pregnancy. On average, vertigo attacks persist for several seconds to several minutes. However, some people can experience vertigo for hours, days, weeks, or even months in severe cases. Vertigo can be frightening, but the condition itself is not considered severe. However, it can be associated with other potentially serious health conditions. Therefore, informing healthcare providers of recurrent or prolonged vertigo attacks is essential.

What Are the Different Types of Vertigo?

The two main types of vertigo are as follows:

  • Peripheral Vertigo: This is the most common type of vertigo that typically happens when there is a problem with the inner ear.

  • Central Vertigo: This mainly occurs when there is an issue with the brain. The other causes include stroke, infection, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, or multiple sclerosis.

What Causes Vertigo?

An inner ear problem often causes vertigo. Common causes of vertigo include:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): It is the most common cause of vertigo, typically triggered by a change in the head's position. People with BPPV can experience vertigo when lying down, sitting up, or turning over in bed.

  • Meniere's Disease: This inner ear disorder is caused by fluid buildup and varying pressure in the ear, leading to vertigo attacks accompanied by ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.

  • Vestibular Labyrinthitis: The infection or inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth is called vestibular labyrinthitis. The ear labyrinth harbors the vestibulocochlear nerve, which sends signals to the brain about sound, position, and head motion. As a result, people often experience headaches, ear pain, vision changes, tinnitus, or hearing loss.

  • Vestibular Neuritis: The inflammation or infection of the vestibular nerve is called vestibular neuritis, which can cause vertigo. Vestibular neuritis is the same as vestibular labyrinthitis, but it does not alter the hearing. People with vestibular neuritis may experience vertigo, nausea, or blurred vision.

  • Cholesteatoma: Repeated ear infections can cause non-cancerous skin growth in the middle ear. This condition is called cholesteatoma. People with cholesteatoma can experience dizziness, vertigo, and hearing loss.

Less common causes of vertigo are:

  • Arrhythmia.

  • Diabetes.

  • Head or neck injury.

  • Brain problems such as stroke or tumor.

  • Certain medications.

  • Migraine headaches.

  • Prolonged bed rest.

  • Hyperventilation.

  • Orthostatic Hypotension - A condition in which the blood pressure decreases when standing up.

  • Ataxia, or muscle weakness.

  • Ear surgery.

  • Syphilis.

What Are the Symptoms of Vertigo?

Vertigo is a symptom of several conditions. However, vertigo can also develop along with other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Sweating.

  • Balance problems.

  • Tinnitus.

  • Headaches.

  • Motion sickness.

  • Spinning.

  • Tilting.

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear.

  • Nystagmus, abnormal or jerking eye movements.

  • Hearing loss. Vertigo symptoms can persist for a few minutes to a few hours or more. In Meniere's disease, vertigo episodes can last for 20 minutes. Migraine-induced vertigo can persist for minutes to hours.

How Is Vertigo Treated?

Most vertigo cases go away on their own. However, several treatments can successfully manage vertigo. The vertigo treatment depends on its cause. The most common vertigo treatments include:

  • Medications: Treating the underlying cause of vertigo can help relieve symptoms. If an infection or inflammation causes vertigo, the healthcare provider can prescribe antibiotics or steroids. If vertigo results from Meniere's disease, diuretics or water pills may be given to lower pressure from fluid buildup.

  • Vestibular Rehabilitation: If vertigo results from an inner ear issue, this physical therapy can help relieve the symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation helps strengthen the vestibular system to compensate for vertigo episodes.

  • Canalith Repositioning Procedure (CRP): If a person has benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), canalith repositioning maneuvers help move calcium deposits out of the canal into an inner ear chamber where the body absorbs them. There may be vertigo symptoms during the procedure due to movement of the canaliths.

  • Surgery: Surgery may be necessary when vertigo is due to a severe underlying issue, such as a tumor or neck or brain injury.

How Is Vertigo Prevented?

A few steps may help reduce the risk of vertigo. These include:

  • Take extra time to stand up, turn head or perform other triggering movements.

  • Elevate the head by placing two pillows below the head when sleeping.

  • Sit down if having a feeling of dizziness.

  • Try to squat rather than bending over when picking something up.

When to See a Health Care Professional for Vertigo?

If vertigo becomes severe or recurrent, call a healthcare provider. There may be an underlying medical problem that is causing vertigo symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help in deciding an effective treatment plan.


Vertigo often comes suddenly without warning. It causes dizziness and makes one feel like spinning around. This condition can arise for many reasons, such as infections, injuries, migraines, and other health conditions, but the most common cause is an inner ear problem. Although vertigo attacks can be scary, they go away quickly in most cases. However, for severe or prolonged vertigo, the symptoms can be associated with another medical condition. Treating the underlying cause of vertigo is the most effective way to reduce discomfort and provide long-term relief. The healthcare provider can help detect the root cause of vertigo and determine an effective treatment plan to help a person with vertigo get back to normal life.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Initial Signs of Vertigo?

Vertigo is the condition when a person feels like spinning or moving. Some of the initial signs of vertigo include -
- Dizziness.
- A sense that the person himself or the surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo).
- A loss of balance or unsteadiness.
- Nausea.
- Vomiting.


Is There a Cure for Vertigo?

Vertigo can be treated by using medicines, and sometimes, vertigo improves on its own. However, head or neck injury patients might experience chronic or long-term vertigo. Moreover, vertigo can be temporary or permanent, depending on the condition of the patient.


Can Vertigo Be Considered a Serious Condition?

Vertigo is not a serious condition but can be associated with other conditions. It is only serious in conditions when the patient is experiencing recurrent episodes of vertigo. In that case, the patient should consult a doctor to resolve the symptoms as soon as possible.


How Long Does Vertigo Takes to Go Away?

Vertigo usually appears suddenly and causes symptoms like dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, and feeling sick (vomiting). These symptoms last from a few hours to days and can take up to three to six weeks to completely go away. Moreover, in severe cases, patients can experience it for months.


Does a Brain Tumor Cause Vertigo?

The cerebellum operates the control and balance of the body. Therefore, a tumor in this brain region can lead to vertigo. Along with this, acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that also causes the worsening of vertigo symptoms.


Does a Brain Tumor Cause Vertigo?

The cerebellum operates the control and balance of the body. Therefore, a tumor in this brain region can lead to vertigo. Along with this, acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that also causes the worsening of vertigo symptoms.


Can Vertigo Be Managed Naturally?

There are various ways by which vertigo can be managed naturally, which include -
- Epley maneuver (this involves steps before bed each night until the symptoms of vertigo resolve for at least 24 hours).
- Ginkgo biloba (Chinese herb used to resolve vertigo symptoms).
- Ginger tea.
- Almonds.
- Staying hydrated.
- Essential oils include peppermint, ginger, lavender, and lemon.
- Apple cider vinegar and honey.
- Acupressure.


Is Walking Recommended for Vertigo?

Walking is considered an effective exercise for treating vertigo. It helps in improving the balance of the body and will allow function properly. Moreover, walking helps strengthen and increase muscle tone.


How to Avoid Vertigo?

A person can avoid vertigo by following some of the below-mentioned steps -
Simple exercises can be done to correct the symptoms, such as
- Sleep with the head slightly raised on two or more pillows.
- Get up slowly when getting out of bed and sit on the edge of the bed for a minute or so before standing.
- Avoid bending down to pick up items.
- Avoid extending the neck while reaching up to a high shelf.
- Move the head carefully and slowly during daily activities.
- Patients can try to do exercises that trigger vertigo so that the brain gets used to it and reduces the symptoms.


What Are the Signs of Vertigo?

One of the most common symptoms of vertigo is dizziness, which increases head movement and the patient describes it as a spinning sensation, with all the surroundings feeling like they were moving.
Some other symptoms include -
- Increased sweating.
- Nausea.
- Vomiting.
- Headache.
- Ringing or buzzing in ears.
- Hearing loss.
- Involuntary eye movements.
- Loss of balance.


Does Dehydration Cause Vertigo?

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than what he takes. The loss of water in the body causes the inability to perform essential functions such as breathing or digestion. And this can make a person feel dizzy and cause other symptoms like lightheadedness and unsteadiness.


Which Vitamin Deficiency Causes Vertigo?

A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause vertigo. In addition, the deficiency of this vitamin can lead to various neurological problems such as feeling off-balance, having low blood pressure, and decreased blood flow to the brain, making people feel dizzy. People with a deficiency of vitamin B12 should consult a doctor and can try to add vitamin B12-rich foods to their diets, such as meat, dairy products, and breakfast cereals.


How to Treat Vertigo With Acupressure?

Acupressure is used to promote wellness and relaxation. It can help manage vertigo by stimulating various pressure points on the body. One of the common methods is P6 acupressure, which is an effective way to treat vertigo and relieve symptoms like nausea, motion sickness, and headache. This point is located three finger breaths below the wrist, on the inner forearm, and between the two tendons.
Dr. Manu Wilfred
Dr. Manu Wilfred

Otolaryngology (E.N.T)


vertigocentral vertigobenign paroxysmal positional vertigoposture and balance
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