Vertigo refers to a special kind of dizziness. It is more of a symptom than a disease. Vertigo refers to a sensation, or feeling, that you are moving or spinning and may be considered a ‘balance disorder.’ Vertigo may also be used to describe feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness and unsteadiness. There are two types of vertigo – subjective and objective. Subjective vertigo occurs when a person has a false sensation of movement; objective vertigo happens when a person’s surrounding move past their field of vision.
Vertigo’s effects are usually fairly minor. It can cause nausea and vomiting as well as lead to difficulties with standing and walking. The condition has very few causes and is related to the inner ear and/or brain problems. Sometimes, vertigo is a symptom of an inner ear infection. However, the most common cause of the condition is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Characterized by the sensation of the motion initiated by sudden head movements or moving the head in a certain direction, BPPV is rarely serious and easily treated.
Vertigo can also be brought on by accidents or trauma, sudden changes in blood pressure or as a symptom of motion sickness while sailing, riding an amusement park ride, sitting in an airplane or driving a motor vehicle, etc. Vertigo can also be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and is a symptom in serious illnesses including Miniere’s Disease, Paraneoplastic Syndrome (PNS) and opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome, a neurological disorder associated with forms of cancer lesions and/or viruses.
Although many times vertigo can be an innocuous issue, there are certain signs and symptoms of it that warrant immediate and emergency attention including:
- Double vision
- Difficulty speaking
- Abnormal eye movements
- Altered level of consciousness and/or not acting appropriately
- Trouble walking
- And the inability to control movement of arms and/or legs
To properly receive a diagnosis of vertigo, your doctor will want to take a complete and thorough medical history. He or she will most likely order certain laboratory tests in the hopes to discover the underlying problem if any. Your blood sugar will probably be checked. A CT scan will be ordered if a brain injury is suspected. An ECG may be considered helpful to check out your heart rhythms as well.
Treatment will depend upon the cause of your vertigo. Medicines, patches, or IV drugs may be proven helpful in many instances. Valium, Phenergan, the Transderm-Scop patch and Benadryl are commonly prescribed to treat vertigo. In general, it’s easy to treat vertigo especially if the cause is a benign one.