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Vertigo – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Vertigo - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment OptionsVertigo is a type of dizziness that is characterized by the sudden sensation that you are spinning or the environment around you is spinning. The feeling of dizziness can occur suddenly and it can last for several hours or days. Along with dizziness, most people also experience headache, nausea, vomiting, double vision or a racing heartbeat. Leading pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer effective treatment that help ease vertigo symptoms.

Vertigo/dizziness can happen at any age, but it is most common among people aged 65 years and above. In most cases, this feeling of dizziness may be hardly noticeable or become so severe that it may affect a person’s ability to maintain balance and perform day-to-day tasks, potentially leading to depression or anxiety.

What Are the Causes?

Imbalances/infections in the inner ear or problems in the brain are the most common causes of vertigo. Less commonly, problems in the brain or central nervous system (central vertigo) can also lead to this condition. Conditions that can cause different types of vertigo include – labyrinthitis, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), and Cholesteatoma, Vestibular neuronitis and Ménière’s disease. In addition, this disorder can also be caused due to head injuries or trauma, migraine headaches, ear surgery, multiple sclerosis, stroke, otosclerosis (a middle ear bone problem that causes hearing loss) and side effects of medication or drug toxicity.

Types of Vertigo and Prominent Symptoms

Depending on the cause, vertigo is classified into two types. Peripheral vertigo usually occurs when there is a disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear. On the other hand, central vertigo occurs due to the disturbance in one or more parts of the brain (known as sensory nerve pathways).

Patients with this ear balance disorder will often have a sense that their head or their surrounding environment is moving or spinning. Some of the most common symptoms associated with this condition include –

  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Balance problems and lightheadedness
  • A sense of motion sickness
  • Headache
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear

The symptoms can be constant (chronic) or episodic and can last from minutes to hours.

Diagnosis and Treatment Methods

Diagnosis of vertigo may primarily begin with a detailed evaluation of patient medical history (including any history of migraine headache, a recent head injury or ear infection) and physical examination. A team of physicians comprising neurologists, internists, audiologists and ENT specialists will ask questions about symptoms, their duration and the kind of dizziness patients feel.

Neurologists will conduct a detailed physical exam to check for typical signs and symptoms of this condition and run several diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT scan (computed tomography). In addition, several other tests such as Electronystagmography (ENG), Videonystagmography (VNG), head impulse test, Romberg’s test and Unterberger’s test are conducted to check if a brain injury is the suspected cause of vertigo. ENG (which uses electrodes) or VNG (which uses small cameras) testing helps to determine if dizziness is caused  due to inner ear disease by measuring involuntary eye movements.

Physicians may begin treatment by recommending bed rest for patients and by prescribing medications, vitamin supplements and physical therapy exercises that suppress the activity of the inner ear.

  • Prescription medications – Prescription medications such as meclizine, dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or promethazine and anticholinergic medications such as scopolamine (Transderm-Sco); or a tranquilizer, such as diazepam (Valium) suppress the activity of the inner ear.
  • Physical therapy exercises – A series of simple head movements (known as the Epley maneuver) done while sitting on a bed is used to treat vertigo.
  • Vitamin D supplements – Vitamin supplements may be beneficial for patients diagnosed with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Vertigo

Depending on the specific causes of vertigo, there are several home remedies which patients can follow to relieve or ease their symptoms. These include –

  • Sleep with your head slightly raised on two or more pillows
  • Avoid bending or extending your neck down to pick up items
  • Move your head carefully and slowly during daily activities
  • Sit down as soon as you feel dizzy
  • Practice relaxation because anxiety could worsen vertigo
  • Ensure good lighting when getting up at night
  • Use a walking stick if you need it

Since vertigo is associated with an intense sense of imbalance, patients must avoid extreme situations such as climbing a ladder or working on a slanted roof because a fall could cause significant harm.

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