Understanding The Common Causes Of Vertigo

The prevalence of vertigo is increasing rapidly and as patients age, it becomes an increasingly common presenting complaint. Vertigo is defined as a type of dizziness which is characterized by the sense of spinning in the head and it is accompanied by sudden changes in position. Individuals suffering from vertigo often feel that they are moving or the environment around them is moving. It is important to understand and differentiate vertigo from other types of dizziness such as imbalance or disequilibrium and lightheadedness.

 Understanding The Common Causes Of Vertigo

Vertigo is of two types:

  • Peripheral vertigo - It is the most common type of vertigo and it is related to the inner ear that controls balance.
  • Central vertigo - It is a disorder that occurs due to the problems in the central nervous system.

Symptoms of Vertigo

The symptoms of vertigo can last for long or may last for seconds. It comes and goes. Other than spinning and feeling off balance, some of the symptoms that can occur in patients having vertigo include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath

Causes of peripheral vertigo

The most common causes of peripheral vertigo include:

1. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is defined as a disorder of the inner ear and it is the most common problem of the inner ear vestibular system, a vital part in maintaining balance. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is a benign disorder which means that it is not life threatening and is not generally progressive. It is one of the most common causes of vertigo and is characterized by symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, imbalance, and nausea.

Also Read: Neuropathy And Some Of Its Types

Usually, people suffering from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo experience the episodes of dizziness whenever they change the position of their head. The most common cause of this disease in people who are under the age of 50 is a head injury and in older people, degeneration of vestibular system in the inner ear is the most common cause of this disease.

2. Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear which is characterized by severe recurrent attacks of vertigo or dizziness, ringing in the ears, feeling of fullness in the ear and hearing loss. In the early stages of this disease, the patients experience the symptoms of vertigo and problems with hearing are minor and often left unnoticed. But, as this disease progresses, the fluctuations of hearing loss becomes common and sometimes, it becomes permanent between the attacks.

Although the meniere’s disease can develop at any age, it is more common in people between 40 and 60 years of age. The attacks of vertigo can occur daily in clusters over a period of several weeks or it can occur as an isolated episode with variable periods.

3. Vestibular neuritis

Vestibular neuritis is a disorder of a vestibular system and is characterized by sudden onset of severe vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and imbalance. The vestibular system is the important part of the inner ear that controls the movement and balance of the head. The term neuritis refers to inflammation of the vestibular nerve. Most often, it results from the virus that damages the vestibular nerve, a nerve that sends messages about movement and balance between the inner ear and the brain.

Other causes of vestibular neuritis include decreased blood flow to the inner ear, exposure to toxic agents, and other substances that can cause damage to the vestibular nerve.

Causes of central vertigo

Some of the common causes of central vertigo are as follows:

1. Migraine

A migraine is usually defined as a condition in which an individual experience severe headache but it is more than just a headache. It is a neurological disorder which affects the whole body. Studies suggest that almost 30% to 50% of migraineurs experience dizziness, and a feeling like a balance is off in the midst of the attacks. A migraine that is associated with vertigo is often referred to by other names such as a vestibular migraine, migraine associated recurrent vertigo, and migraine associated dizziness.   

The vertigo symptoms vary in those people who have a migraine. The sensation of vertigo can occur without any outside trigger. They can experience the feeling of self moving or as if the surrounding or environment are moving.

2. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes the abnormal functioning of the immune system that leads the body’s immune system to attack the protective coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The central nervous system makes up of the brain and the spinal cord and multiple sclerosis significantly affect the central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis consists of a wide range of symptoms and some of them include poor balance, visual loss, difficulty walking, chronic pain, fatigue, numbness, and tremors.

3. Brain tumor

A brain tumor is one of the causes of central vertigo. A tumor develops when there is an abnormal growth of the tissue and when there is a growth of abnormal cells in the brain, it is known as a brain tumor. A brain tumor is of two types - primary brain tumor and secondary brain tumor. A primary brain tumor is a type of tumor that begins in the brain. Whereas, a secondary brain tumor is a type of tumor that spread to the brain from other areas.

Exercise to treat vertigo

A wide variety of medications are used to treat vertigo and frequently concurrent nausea and these medications are most useful in treating vertigo. Other than medication, vestibular rehabilitation exercises are commonly included in the treatment of vertigo. These exercises train the brain to use alternative visual cues to maintain balance. It is believed that it is necessary for the patient to re-experience vertigo so that the brain can adapt to a new baseline of the vestibular function.

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