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Vertigo is a sensation of motion or spinning that is often described as dizziness.
Vertigo is not the same as light-headedness. People with vertigo feel as though they are actually spinning or moving, or that the world is spinning around them.
Peripheral vertigo; Central vertigo
There are two types of vertigo:
Vertigo related to the areas in the inner ear that control balance (vestibular labyrinth or semicircular canals) may be caused by:
Vertigo related to the problems with vestibular nerve may be caused by:
Vertigo related to the brainstem may be caused by:
The primary symptom is a sensation that you or the room is moving or spinning. The spinning sensation may cause nausea and vomiting in some people.
Other symptoms can include:
If you have vertigo due to problems in the brain (central vertigo), you will usually other symptoms from the underlying conditions. They may include:
A physical exam may reveal:
Tests to determine the cause of vertigo may include:
Medications to treat peripheral vertigo may include:
The cause of any brain disorder causing vertigo should be identified and treated when possible.
Persistent balance problems may improve with physical therapy. To prevent worsening of symptoms during episodes of vertigo, try the following:
You may need help walking when symptoms occur. Avoid hazardous activities such as driving, operating heavy machinery, and climbing until 1 week after symptoms have disappeared.
Other treatment depends on the cause of the vertigo. Surgery may be suggested in some cases.
The outcome depends on the cause.
Persistent, unrelieved vertigo can interfere with driving, work, and lifestyle. It can also cause falls, which can lead to many injuries, including hip fractures.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if vertigo is persistent or troublesome.
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Kerber KO, Baloh RW. Dizziness, vertigo, and hearing loss: Vascular malformations. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 18.