Vertigo is a sudden sensation of spinning that may cause a loss of balance and nausea or vomiting. Vertigo is usually a symptom of another health condition, most commonly benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Other causes include Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis, and labrynthitis. Vertigo itself is not typically serious, but it may be a sign of an underlying health problem.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Vertigo is characterized by a spinning sensation while not moving. People with vertigo may have nausea, vomiting, and unsteadiness while walking. Episodes of vertigo can last anywhere from a few minutes to a day or longer. Although the symptoms of vertigo are not harmful, frequent episodes can disrupt daily activities. Vertigo can cause difficulty walking and may make people more prone to falls.

To diagnose vertigo and what is causing it, a doctor will perform a physical exam and hearing tests. The patient may be asked to move the head or eyes to see which movements elicit dizziness. The doctor may also check for involuntary eye movements with an electronystagmography or videonystagmography, which are tests that use either electrodes or small cameras to measure eye movements. Involuntary eye movements can signal inner ear problems. An MRI can also be used to rule out brain problems.


Many conditions can cause vertigo. The most common cause is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which occurs when particles in the ear come loose and move into other parts of the ear. BPPV can happen after a head injury or when damage is done to the inner ear. Meniere’s disease, a vestibular disorder, can also cause vertigo and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). It is believed that Meniere’s disease is caused by excess fluid in the inner ear, although the exact cause is not known. Other causes include migraines and vestibular neuritis, a disorder that damages the part of the inner ear that manages balance. Older people are more likely to experience vertigo. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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