There’s dizziness, there’s light-headedness and then there’s
vertigo. “Vertigo goes beyond just feeling faint or woozy,” says
Parveen Vora, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Garden Grove. “With vertigo, you can feel dizzy or unsteady,
but the hallmark of this disorder is a spinning sensation, where it feels
like either you or the room is moving. It’s especially pronounced
when you move your head.”
There are two types of vertigo: central and peripheral. Central vertigo
is caused by issues with the brain, such as migraines, stroke, blood vessel
disease or multiple sclerosis. Symptoms range from double vision and slurred
words to facial paralysis.
Peripheral vertigo is usually caused by problems in the inner ear. “Peripheral
vertigo can result from head injury, a punctured eardrum, certain medications
or pressure bearing down on the vestibular nerve running from the ear
to the brain stem,” Dr. Vora says. The most common type of peripheral
vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
“The inner ear has tiny organs that govern balance,” Dr. Vora
says. “Inside those organs are calcium crystals that help signal
the brain when you move your head. Sometimes those little particles move
out of their proper place, and the brain gets incorrect signals that cause
the spinning feeling.” BPPV sufferers may grapple with nausea, balance
loss and abnormal eye movement. Symptoms can disappear as suddenly as
they appear, and bouts of vertigo can recur.
During an episode of vertigo, you want to be careful when making movements
such as walking, sitting up or turning your head, as that can trigger
the spinning sensation. “It’s best to keep as still as possible
while you are experiencing vertigo—avoid sudden movements and after
the vertigo passes, give yourself time to get your equilibrium back,”
Dr. Vora says.
“If you have ongoing symptoms of either type of vertigo for more
than a week—or more extreme issues such as hearing loss, fever,
or problems walking—you should see a doctor, who can perform a physical
exam and run tests to determine what is wrong,” says Dr. Vora. “BPPV
can sometimes be relieved if the doctor performs the Epley maneuver, in
which the patient’s head is positioned in certain ways to move the
calcium crystals. Vertigo patients may also be prescribed physical therapy
or medication to alleviate nausea.”
Have you had to take any special precautions to safeguard against vertigo?
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.