Vertigo is a sensation of feeling off balance. It is a symptom where a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking.
Vertigo can be temporary or long-term. It can occur during pregnancy or a symptom of an ear infection. People with an inner ear disorder such as Meniere’s disease, sometimes also experience vertigo.
Vertigo is a symptom, but it can lead to or occur alongside other symptoms, too:
- Balance problems
- A sense of motion sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ear, called tinnitus
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- nystagmus , in which eyes move uncontrollably, usually from side to side
Various conditions can lead to vertigo, which usually involves either an imbalance in the inner ear or a problem with the central nervous system (CNS)
Labyrinthitis – This disorder can happen when an infection causes inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth. Within this area is the vestibulocochlear nerve.
Vestibular Neuritis – An infection causes vestibular neuritis, which is inflammation of the vestibular nerve. It is similar to labyrinthitis, but it does not affect a person’s hearing. Vestibular neuritis causes vertigo that may accompany blurred vision, severe nausea, or a feeling of being off balance.
Cholesteatoma – This noncancerous skin growth develops in the middle ear, usually due to repeated infection. As it grows behind the eardrum, it can damage the middle ear’s bony structures, leading to hearing loss and dizziness.
Ménière’s disease – This disease causes a buildup of fluid in the inner ear, which can lead to attacks of vertigo with ringing in the ears and hearing loss. It tends to be more common in people between the ages of 40 and 60 years.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – The inner ear contains structures called the otolith organs, which contain fluid and particles of crystals of calcium carbonate.
Some cases of vertigo improve over time, without treatment. However, some people have repeated episodes for many months, or even years, such as those with Ménière’s disease.
A doctor may, for example, prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection or antiviral drugs for shingles.
Medications are available that can relieve some symptoms. These drugs include antihistamines and anti-emetics to reduce motion sickness and nausea.
Surgery may be necessary if other treatments are not effective. BPPV and acoustic neuroma are two conditions for which this may be appropriate.
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