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Battling Vertigo: Causes and Treatment

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Vertigo is a condition that affects many people, causing sensations of dizziness, lightheadedness, and disorientation. It is a common condition that can be caused by several factors, including disorders in the inner ear, migraines, or central nervous system disorders. It's important to understand vertigo to effectively manage the condition. In this article, we will explore the causes and symptoms of vertigo, ways to diagnose it, treatment options available, and some lifestyle modifications to help manage the condition. Understanding vertigo can help individuals recognize symptoms early on, and seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment. With proper management, individuals living with vertigo can continue to lead healthy, active, and fulfilling lives.

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is a condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. Each of these factors can affect different systems within the body, leading to different types of vertigo. The following are the three most common causes of vertigo:

A. Inner Ear Disorders

The most common cause of vertigo is inner ear disorders. These disorders can affect the vestibular system that is responsible for sensing motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. Infections or inflammation in the inner ear such as labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis can result in vertigo. Another common disorder affecting the inner ear is benign lymphatic paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV), which is caused by a disturbance in calcium crystals known as otoconia within the ear canals.

B. Migraines

Another potential cause of vertigo is migraines. Around half of all individuals who experience migraines may also experience a type of vertigo referred to as vestibular migraine. Vestibular migraines can result in symptoms similar to vertigo, including dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. These symptoms can last for several hours and may happen frequently in patients with vestibular migraines.

C. Central Nervous System Disorders

Finally, vertigo can also result from central nervous system disorders. These disorders include Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and other conditions affecting the brainstem or cerebellum regions of the brain responsible for balance and coordination. Vertigo is often one of the early symptoms of these disorders, and patients may report other symptoms like blurred vision, muscle weakness, and difficulty speaking.

Knowing the underlying cause of vertigo can help in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition type. It’s essential to get expert help and seek treatment when experiencing vertigo symptoms.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Vertigo is a disorder that primarily affects a person's balance. The condition is typically characterized by a spinning sensation, which can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and disorientation. Other common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, ringing in the ears, and vision disturbances.

Dizziness and lightheadedness are two of the most common symptoms associated with vertigo. These sensations can range from mild to severe, with some patients experiencing a sensation of being unsteady on their feet or feeling as if they are going to faint. Patients may also experience a feeling of spinning or movement that is not there.

Nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms of vertigo. These symptoms can be particularly problematic for individuals who experience vertigo on a regular basis. In some cases, nausea and vomiting may be so severe that they can prevent you from carrying out your daily activities.

Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, is another symptom of vertigo. This symptom can be particularly distressing, as it can interfere with a person's ability to concentrate, hear, and sleep. Tinnitus can be particularly problematic when it is accompanied by vertigo.

Finally, vision disturbances are another common symptom of vertigo. This can include blurred vision, double vision, or the sensation that your vision is bouncing around. These visual symptoms can be particularly dangerous if you are driving or operating heavy machinery.

Overall, it is important to pay attention to your symptoms and seek professional help if you experience any of these symptoms. The earlier you seek treatment, the more successful your treatment plan will be.

Diagnosing Vertigo

Vertigo can be challenging to diagnose as its underlying causes can be multi-factorial. However, with a thorough medical history and physical examination, diagnosis is possible. A medical practitioner should begin by conducting an in-depth investigation into the patient's vertigo symptoms.

The practitioner should gather information about the frequency and duration of the vertigo episodes, any associated symptoms, and potential precipitating factors. In some cases, the practitioner may need to take a detailed family history regarding any genetic factors that increase susceptibility to vertigo or comorbid conditions.

After the medical history-taking, the physician will perform a physical examination. The physician will want to rule out other medical conditions that can cause vertigo, such as cardiovascular abnormalities. The practitioner will typically take the patient's blood pressure to determine if hypertension could be the origin of the patient's vertigo symptoms.

The practitioner may also conduct specialist examinations focused on evaluating the patient's inner ear functions. The most common inner ear exam for vertigo includes the Dix-Hallpike test. During this test, the physician moves a patient's head into a specific position, and the specialist will monitor the patient's eye movements.

Finally, after conducting all necessary tests and examinations, the physician will analyze the results to diagnose vertigo type correctly. The practitioner can then make suggestions on ideal medical therapies and suggest proper lifestyle modifications to manage vertigo symptoms.

Treatment Options for Vertigo

Vertigo can be a very debilitating condition that can significantly impede your daily activities. However, with proper treatment, patients can manage their symptoms effectively and live a normal life. The treatment options for vertigo often vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the patient's condition. Here are some of the common treatment options available for vertigo patients:

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is a specialized form of physical therapy designed to help patients manage their symptoms of vertigo. VRT is usually prescribed for patients experiencing dizziness and balance problems associated with inner ear disorders. The therapy seeks to retrain the brain to compensate for any balance issues through exercises such as head movements or eye exercises. VRT is a non-invasive treatment option for vertigo and is often found to be very effective in managing symptoms.


Medications are effective in managing vertigo symptoms, especially when combined with other treatment options. Doctors may prescribe specific medications for vertigo, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Examples of drugs that can be used to manage vertigo are anticholinergics, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, and benzodiazepines.
While medications alleviate the symptoms, they do not address the underlying condition causing vertigo. As such, it is crucial to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Invasive Treatment Options

Invasive treatment options are only resorted to when other options fail to manage vertigo symptoms. Examples of invasive treatment options are surgery and injections. Surgery is often reserved as a last resort treatment option, and it is only done in extreme cases where the patient's symptoms are severely affecting their quality of life. On the other hand, injections are used to provide immediate relief to patients with recurrent vertigo attacks.

Overall, the treatment options for vertigo are varied and usually depend on the individual patient's cause and severity of symptoms. Proper consultation with a medical professional should be done when seeking treatment options.

Lifestyle Modifications to Manage Vertigo

Vertigo can be very disruptive to a person's life, but fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help manage it. One of the most important things to do is to identify and avoid your specific triggers. Sensory stimuli like bright lights, loud noises, and sudden movements can all trigger vertigo in some people.

Another way to manage vertigo is to make changes to your diet and exercise routine. In particular, you should focus on maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding any food or drink that can trigger your vertigo symptoms. This may include alcohol, certain types of food, or caffeine. Exercise can also be helpful, as it can help improve blood flow to the brain and balance the inner ear.

Finally, managing stress and ensuring that you are getting enough sleep can also be helpful in managing vertigo symptoms. Stress and lack of sleep can cause dizziness or make it worse. Try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, to manage stress. Make sure you prioritize good sleep hygiene and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Remember, managing vertigo is all about finding what works best for you. It may take some trial and error, but with perseverance, you can find an effective management strategy that allows you to live a full and active life.


In conclusion, vertigo is a common medical condition that can cause significant discomfort and reduction in quality of life. Many factors can lead to vertigo, including inner ear disorders, migraines, and central nervous system disorders. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of vertigo is crucial to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Seeking professional help and undergoing medical evaluation are crucial steps in managing vertigo.

Key points to remember include the importance of lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding triggers, making changes to diet and exercise, and managing stress and sleep. Treatment options for vertigo can include vestibular rehabilitation therapy, medications, and possibly invasive treatment options. With proper treatment and management, it is possible to significantly reduce the severity of vertigo symptoms.

It is essential to remember that vertigo can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life. It is highly recommended to seek professional help for the diagnosis and management of vertigo. Failure to do so can lead to complications and further reduction in quality of life. Therefore, individuals experiencing vertigo symptoms should consult with medical professionals to receive proper evaluation and treatment promptly.


  1. What is the main cause of vertigo?

    The main cause of vertigo is inner ear disorders, followed by migraines and central nervous system disorders.

  2. What are the most common symptoms of vertigo?

    The most common symptoms of vertigo are dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting, ringing in the ears, and vision disturbances.

  3. How is vertigo diagnosed?

    Vertigo is diagnosed through a medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests such as blood tests, imaging tests, and vestibular tests.

  4. What are the treatment options for vertigo?

    The treatment options for vertigo are vestibular rehabilitation therapy, medications, and invasive treatment options such as surgery.

  5. What are some lifestyle modifications that can help manage vertigo?

    Some lifestyle modifications that can help manage vertigo include avoiding triggers, making changes to diet and exercise, and practicing sleep and stress management.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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