Vertigo is the sensation or illusion that the body or environment is spinning when it is not. Two types of vertigo symptoms have been identified. Subjective vertigo is when you feel like your body is moving and objective is when you feel the world around you is moving. Vertigo is a symptom caused by a disease process and not necessarily a disease by itself.
Diseases That Cause Vertigo Symptoms
Several conditions present with vertigo symptoms. Some of them are not dangerous and others are life threatening. Conditions that may include vertigo as a symptoms include:
- Migraine (a severe type of headache)
- Head trauma from injury
- Whiplash or neck injury
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Tumor often accompanied by ringing in the ear and decreased hearing.
- Cerebellar Hemorrhage (the blood flow to the brain is compromised due to a blood vessel rupture in the brain).
- Meniere’s Disease (an abnormality in the labyrinth (inner) part of the ear.
- Inner ear inflammation
- Ear infection
- Sudden movement of the head (usually disappears without treatment or complication).
When Vertigo Symptoms are a Medical Emergency
Vertigo symptoms by themselves are rarely life threatening. However, when you have other symptoms to go along with vertigo, you may be experiencing a medical emergency. If you suffer vertigo along with any of these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment immediately:
- Difficulty talking
- Uncontrollable eye movements
- Slurred speech
- Decreased mental alertness of consciousness
- Headache that doesn’t go away
- Alteration in balance and ability to walk (feeling drunk)
- Blurred vision or double vision
When vertigo symptoms are present (non emergent); they can be difficult to diagnose. Keeping a diary of other symptoms present when vertigo symptoms occur can help your doctor determine the source of your vertigo. Answers to the following questions will help your doctor diagnose your vertigo:
- How often do vertigo symptoms occur?
- Is vertigo constant or intermittent (come and go)?
- Are you involved in any activity when vertigo symptoms happen?
- Are any other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, sweating or weakness present with the vertigo symptoms?
- Is your hearing affected when the vertigo occurs?
- Do you have ringing in your ears?
- What (if anything) makes the vertigo less?
- Have you suffered any trauma or injury recently?
Your doctor may examine your ears, perform a scan (type of x-ray imaging) of your and head and do blood tests to find the reason for your vertigo symptoms. Treatment for vertigo symptoms will depend on what your doctor determines if the cause. If the vertigo is caused by ear infection antibiotics are usually prescribed. For those diagnosed with Meniere’s disease medication, a low salt diet and increasing urine output are options. For vertigo symptoms caused by brain hemorrhage or tumor, surgery may be required.
In some cases, a reason cannot be isolated for vertigo symptoms. When other illness has been ruled out; treatment is aimed at limiting the symptoms by lifestyle change such as avoiding activities that cause vertigo (such as sudden head movements. Care must be exercised by those who suffer from vertigo to prevent falls and injury.