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Symptoms of Vertigo

Abhijit Naik
Vertigo is typically characterized by the feeling that you are about to fall. Besides this feeling, the condition is accompanied by certain symptoms which play a crucial role in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of conditions.
Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or swaying experienced while the body is stationary. When an individual feels that he himself is moving, then it is known as subjective vertigo. On the other hand, when it is perceived that the surroundings are moving, then it is known as objective vertigo.
The brain utilizes the inputs received from the four sensory systems in order to maintain balance and orientation to the surroundings. Vertigo is caused when conflicts arise between these signals sent to the brain by various balance and position sensing systems of the body.
Labyrinth, a portion of the inner ear, has some specialized cells which detect motion and changes in position. An injury or disease caused to the inner ear sends false signals to the brain. These false signals conflict with the signals sent from the other balance and positioning centers and thus, trigger vertigo.
Common Causes of Vertigo
  • Migraines that are painful and debilitating
  • Injury suffered to the inner ear or head
  • Disorders like vestibular neuritis, labyrinthitis, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency triggered due to decreased blood flow in the posterior circulation of the brain
  • Cancer or brain tumor that travels to other parts of the body, especially the ear
  • Cholesteatoma―a noncancerous growth behind the eardrum
  • Ear problems leading to symptoms of vertigo
Vertigo Symptoms
  • Difficulty in walking or standing at one place
  • It may appear as if the floor is moving
  • Hearing loss or a ringing sensation in the ears
  • Feeling of being pulled down to the floor or towards one side of the room
  • Sweating profusely
  • Difficulty in speaking and low degree of consciousness
  • Feeling light headed
  • Weakness accompanied by nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling as if the room is spinning
  • Visual disturbances and not being able to look at a particular object continuously
The symptoms may vary from person to person. The duration of these symptoms may range from few minutes to a few days. At times, they may recur periodically, while at other times, they may occur continuously.
Movement of head, changing position, or turning while lying down can often lead to worsening of this condition. Sudden onset of vertigo can be an indication of peripheral vestibular disorder.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of vertigo includes examination of ears, eye movements, and nervous system. In case of severe vertigo, some specific tests are recommended. A provocation test involves positioning the head in different positions to curb dizziness.
The inability to maintain balance while standing with the eyes closed may be an indication of a problem in the middle ear. In caloric test, warm and cold air is blown into the ear to examine whether the inner ear is working properly.
An x-ray is recommended to rule out arthritis of the neck, while a CT or MRI scan of brain is recommended to rule out the possibility of brain tumor.
The treatment process involves identifying and eliminating the causes of this disorder. If vertigo is caused due to a particular medication, then the dose of that medicine should be immediately lowered or it should be discontinued. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is used to treat vertigo by restoring normal functioning of the vestibular system.
If vertigo is caused due to ear infections resulting from bacterial growth, it can be treated by using antibiotics. A surgical process called myringotomy is used to treat chronic ear infections which trigger vertigo. If vertigo is caused due to meniere disease, it can be treated by reducing sodium intake.
It is very important to identify the exact cause of the disorder before initiating treatment. If not treated at the right time, it may even lead to depression and loss of self esteem.