Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Vertigo is a sensation that everything around you is spinning or moving, which is usually caused by a problem in the inner ear, but can also be caused by vision problems. People with vertigo commonly feel things are moving when they are standing completely still and everything around them is still.

Vertigo is medically different from dizziness, lightheadedness, and unsteadiness. Lay people commonly use the terms dizziness and vertigo indistinctly. If this happens, it is important for a doctor to determine exactly what the patient is trying to describe. Doctors say that vertigo is more severe than dizziness, which commonly happens when a person stands up and feels light-headed. People with vertigo may find it harder to move around because the spinning sensation tends to affect balance. "Vertigo" is often used, incorrectly, to describe the fear of heights, but the correct term for this is acrophobia. The medical term vertigo can occur at any time and may last for days, weeks, months, and even years, while acrophobia symptoms only occur only when the person is high up and looking down. However, vertigo is so commonly used 'incorrectly' by lay people that it would be naive today to say it only has one meaning.

The vertigo can be caused by a problem with the balance mechanisms of the inner ear (A complex system of interconnecting cavities; concerned with hearing and equilibrium), a problem with the brain, or a problem with the nerves that connect the brain to the middle ear (The main cavity of the ear; between the eardrum and the inner ear).

Inflammation of the labyrinth(labyrinthitis), a system of canals and cavities within the inner ear which gives us our sense of balance. The sudden onset of a feeling of vertigo caused by labirynthitis is triggered by head or body movement, and is usually accompanied by a feeling of nausea and malaise. This may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Viral infections, such as a common cold or flu can spread to the labyrinth - labyrinthitis. Bacterial infections are less common.


If true vertigo exists, symptoms include a sensation of disorientation or motion. In addition, the individual may also have any or all of these symptoms:

• Nausea or vomiting.

• Sweating.

• Abnormal eye movements.

• A sensation that everything around you is moving or spinning.

• Loss of balance.

• Lightheadedness.

• Problems walking properly.

• Problems standing still properly.

• Blurred vision.

• Earache.


To make an accurate diagnosis of vertigo, your PCP will want to know: what symptoms you have - for example, whether you feel lightheaded or if your surroundings are spinning.

• How often your symptoms occur.

• How long your symptoms usually last for.

• If your symptoms are affecting your daily activities - for example, whether you are unable to walk during an episode of vertigo.

• Whether anything triggers your symptoms or makes them worse, such as moving your head in a particular direction. You may be asked a number of further questions to help determine the cause of your vertigo, such as whether you:

• are taking any medication.

• have a family history of migraines (severe headaches) or M


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