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What Causes Vertigo?

Author: Dr. A.k.srivastava - Neurological Health  

Dizziness, unsteadiness, lightheadedness are symptoms expressed by the patient. But all these indicate that the patient is having a problem of balancing. Balancing is the outcome of a reflex mechanism where vestibule of ear, eyes and sensory receptors of joints and muscles send sensory impulses to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The integration takes place here and finally ordered impulses travel through motor nerves to postural muscles for the maintenance of posture and balance.


So, vertigo is divided into two depending on the site of lesion in the above reflex mechanism:

Central vertigo - Includes diseases of the brain like brain tumors, etc.

Peripheral vertigo - Includes diseases of the vestibule of the ear. This is very important because most of the patients of vertigo are found to be of vestibular origin. In a majority of the cases, it is reversible and patients are found to be having a good spontaneous recovery. Recovery takes place in about two to four weeks.


A few common vestibular diseases causing vertigo are:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) - most common type causing positional vertigo and spinning sensation.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) - transient loss of blood flow to the brain causing vertigo.
  • Meniere’s disease - a disease of the inner ear causing hearing and balance defects.
  • Viral Labyrinthitis - a viral infection of the inner ear causing hearing and balance defects.
  • Migraine - chronic headache associated with vertigo.

Central vertigo usually has a bad prognosis and is treated by neurosurgeons, whereas vestibular vertigo has a good prognosis and is treated by otolaryngologists.

Last reviewed at: 10.Sep.2018



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