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A Guide to Understanding Vertigo

man with vertigo

Vertigo is described as feeling a sense of dizziness or spinning and can result from a number of different causes, ranging from an ear infection to disruption of the fluid in your ear. While symptoms can often resolve on their own after a few days or a week, individuals that experience the spinning sensation for longer or more frequently should seek the guidance of an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.

Inside our inner ear, we have crystals. These crystals are designed so that our organs are balanced when we are moving. However, if signals lag behind the signals that are emitted from the limbs and eyes, this creates an illusion of movement. When someone has vertigo, uncoordinated and jerky eye movements are caused because of inner-ear signals. This is known as nystagmus. These movements conflict with the other movement signals in the brain. These repeated attacks will typically last for less than 30 seconds. Also, they are precipitated by head movements, for example, looking up or rolling over while in bed.

Causes of vertigo 

There are a number of different types of vertigo, and there are numerous causes of this condition as well. This includes:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Stroke
  • Side effects of medication
  • Otosclerosis
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Ear surgery 
  • Taking certain medication
  • Head trauma or injuries
  • Migraine headaches 

It could be a migraine

Around one in ten people with migraines have bouts of vertigo. These bouts do not necessarily coincide with the more common headache symptoms. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to as long as several days. If this is something you are experiencing, you may notice that you are extra sensitive to smells, noise and light. The treatment you receive will be the same as if you were going to get treatment for a migraine headache; you will try and determine what the triggers are and then avoid them. You may also be given anti-sickness medication and short-term painkillers. 

How do I treat vertigo?

Your ENT doctor will determine the best treatment for vertigo. The treatment you are given will depend on the cause of vertigo. Advice from doctors for this condition is to try and get back to normal life as quickly as you can. While it is tempting to simply try to sleep it off or undertake bed rest when we’re not feeling the same as usual, this is not recommended. Instead, by getting back into your normal routine as quickly as you can, this will kick-start the brain into compensating for vertigo, which will help to make sure it does not become a long-term issue. 

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of vertigo, including what it is and the best way to treat it. If you have noticed the symptoms of vertigo, the best thing to do is to book an appointment to see your ENT doctor as soon as possible.