A spinning sensation is the best way to describe the main symptom of vertigo. Statistically, this is the chief complain of 5 – 10% of the general population. It may also be associated with nausea, vomiting and ringing in one or both ears (tinnitus).
Vertigo can be divided into two major categories, peripheral vertigo and central vertigo.
- Peripheral vertigo, which is much more common, includes benign positional vertigo, labyrinthitis and Ménière’s disease. Positional vertigo is diagnosed when moving the head causes the vertigo and returning the head to a neutral position relieves symptoms. Labyrinthitis and Ménière’s attacks usually come on abruptly and last from a few hours to a couple of days. There may be intense nausea and vomiting and variable hearing loss.
- Central vertigo is a more serious problem in the cerebellum (back part of the brain) or brain stem.
A number of underlying health conditions can cause these problems. Some of these conditions disrupt or confuse the signals your brain receives from one or more of your sensory systems, including your:
- Eyes, which help you determine where your body is in space and how it’s moving
- Sensory nerves, which send messages to your brain about body movements and positions
- Inner ear, which houses sensors that help detect gravity and back-and-forth motion
It can be an emergency!
Vertigo can be a sign of a medical emergency when associated with these symptoms.
- Significant head injury
- A new, different or severe headache
- A fever higher than 38.3 C
- A very stiff neck
- Blurred vision
- Sudden hearing loss
- Speech impairment
- Leg or arm weakness
- Loss of consciousness
- Falling or difficulty walking
- Chest pain or rapid or slow heart rate
…..seek medical attention ASAP!
Vertigo can happen to anyone and there is no way to prevent the first episode. Because vertigo can be associated with an intense sense of imbalance, it is important to avoid situations in which a fall could cause significant harm, like climbing a ladder or working on a slanted roof.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, mainly focusing on your neurological system. They will need to determine if the cause is more likely a peripheral or central vertigo. For peripheral vertigo, you will be given medication and can be treated as an outpatient, unless the imbalance sensation is very severe. When the doctor suspects a central vertigo, he or she might need to consult a neurologist and order further tests such as a head CT scan, MRI, etc. If it is confirmed as a central vertigo, you will need to stay in hospital for further evaluation and treatment.