How to Recognize Vertigo: The Important Signs and Symptoms

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a high cliff and experiencing that stomach-churning feeling that you might fall off. When people feel this way, many would say that they are suffering from vertigo. However, although that’s a common belief, this sensation is not true vertigo. So exactly what is vertigo, and what are the symptoms?

How to Recognize Vertigo: The Important Signs and Symptoms

What is vertigo?

Strictly speaking, vertigo is a set of very specific symptoms rather than a health condition in its own right. You can suffer these unpleasant symptoms as a result of several problems, usually those related to conditions affecting the delicate balance system of the inner ear, although some brain and vision issues (such as an accident) can spark vertigo as well.

What are the symptoms of vertigo?

The signature symptom of vertigo is a nasty sensation that everything around you is swirling. This can be quite mild and last only a few seconds, or it can be severe and last for weeks or even months. Other symptoms associated with vertigo include dizziness, loss of balance, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Occasionally, you can have further symptoms related more closely to the condition that’s causing vertigo, such as high fever, tinnitus (i.e. hearing constant sounds), or hearing loss.

Which illnesses can cause vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by a wide range of illnesses.

One of the commonest kinds of vertigo is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo—an inner ear problem. Tiny calcium deposits occur naturally in the vestibular labyrinth area of your inner ear, but in BPPV these deposits move around as you move your head (e.g. when looking up to reach a high shelf), interfering with the balance signals to your brain and causing vertigo.

Vestibular neuronitis is another condition of the inner ear, during which the vestibular nerve becomes inflamed. This nerve runs from the inner ear to the brain, and the inflammation causes the balance signals to get disrupted, causing vertigo. Labyrinthitis is also linked to the inner ear, when the labyrinth canals get infected and once again the signals to the brain are distorted.

Vertigo is linked to a number of other specific health conditions, such as Ménière’s disease. Migraine-induced vertigo can produce vertigo symptoms both during a migraine attack and at other times. Medication to tackle the severe pain of migraine are rarely successful in affecting vertigo (and vice versa).

How can vertigo be treated?

Your physician will need to know exactly what’s causing your vertigo before proposing a course of action, because each cause may need different treatment in order to succeed.

Mild vertigo that has little negative effect on the patient often doesn’t need any treatment at all. If it’s caused by an infection or doesn’t disrupt everyday life too often, it’s generally considered better to leave well alone and let the symptoms subside naturally. However, if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting, they can have a significant impact on day-to-day activities, and even simple tasks can become a misery. In cases like this, it’s better to intervene and find a solution.

BPPV can be treated very quickly and successfully by manipulating the head in order to relocate the offending calcium deposits. While the patient is lying down, the doctor carries out a series of movements of your head, in a process known as the Epley maneuver. Some patients have described this as a ‘miracle cure’ as it can banish vertigo symptoms almost instantly. However, some forms of vertigo require medication over a longer period of time to bring relief. Experts will often recommend exercises and strategies patients can do at home to help improve their symptoms as well.

Self-help strategies for vertigo

Providing you follow medical advice, there are several ways you can help yourself to reduce or eliminate vertigo symptoms. Sleeping on a raised pillow can often bring benefits, and thinking about how you move around (e.g. moving slowly and carefully when getting up or bending down) can also help your body adjust more easily to a change in position. Your doctor may recommend avoiding movements that trigger your vertigo, such as looking up or turning suddenly, but sometimes retraining your brain by deliberately triggering your symptoms can be helpful—provided it’s done under controlled conditions and you don’t risk falling.

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Ridhi Arora

Ridhi Arora is a weight loss success story who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. including the posts on her own site,