Vertigo is defined as the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving when they are actually still. It is a sensation often described as feeling like you are spinning, swaying, tilting or falling. Vertigo is often associated with nausea, vomiting and sweating. Your balance may also be affected and standing or walking may be challenging, which can lead to increased chance of falls.
Vertigo affects your vestibular system. The vestibular system is the sensory system that controls information regarding motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation.
Vertigo is most commonly caused by a condition called BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This occurs when tiny calcium particles clump together in the inner ear and become loose, affecting the balance receptors and messages sent to the brain regarding balance.
Symptoms are often triggered by lying down, rolling over in bed or tilting the head backwards.
BPPV usually affects people older than 50 years. There may be no obvious cause, but in some cases it may develop after a minor head injury, ear surgery, or following a period of prolonged bed rest.
- Loss of co-ordination/un-steadiness
- Blurred vision
- Ringing on the ears
Treatment depends on the cause. In most cases vertigo goes away without treatment. For instance, vertigo may go away in a few weeks as the brain learns to compensate for an imbalance caused by the inner ear.
However, if symptoms persist treatment options are available
- Vestibular rehabilitation or balance training – this is a type of physical therapy that strengthens the vestibular system and aims to restore a person’s sense of balance using other senses
- Canalith repositioning procedure – this is useful if the cause is BPPV. The treatment aims at moving these calcium deposits out of the inner ear canal so they can be absorbed by the body