Have you ever suddenly felt like you or your surrounding environment is spinning while you are sitting in your office or walking down the street? If so, you likely have vertigo.

What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a form of dizziness that is marked by the sudden feeling that you or the world around you are rotating or rocking even when you are perfectly still. The sensation lasts for a few seconds to hours, but severe cases can last for many days or even months. Along with the feeling of dizziness, people with vertigo may also experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, double vision, or a rapid heart rate.

Some people confuse vertigo with dizziness to explain a wide range of symptoms, ranging from lightheadedness to balance disorders. It actually differs from dizziness in the sense that vertigo is marked by an illusion of movement. However, health care experts generally consider vertigo to be a specific sign of certain problems involving the brain or inner ear.

What Causes Vertigo?

Vertigo is not an illness, nor in itself contagious. Instead, it is a symptom, and many different conditions can cause it.

The most common causes of vertigo are ear infections or diseases (also known as peripheral vertigo), such as:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). This is caused by calcium buildup in the inner ear canals which result in brief dizziness that lasts only between 15 to 60 seconds or a few minutes. BPPV is often caused by abrupt head movements or certain head positions, such as rolling over the bed.

  • Vestibular Neuritis. This is a form of inner ear infection that is caused by inflammation around the nerves responsible for your sense of balance. It is usually characterized by severe bouts of vertigo that can last a day or more, possibly along with hearing loss.

  • Meniere’s Disease. This chronic condition is caused by fluid and pressure buildup in the inner ear that can result in episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears.

Less common causes of vertigo are problems with the central nervous system (also referred to as central vertigo). These include migraines, head trauma, and neck injuries, to name a few.

What Is the Treatment for Vertigo?

Vertigo usually comes and goes pretty quickly. Most cases of vertigo are considered harmless since it usually gets better without treatment. However, any signs of vertigo shall be evaluated by your doctor. Seek medical care if the symptoms keep on coming back or start to affect your day-to-day activities.

Although vertigo can sometimes be debilitating, most cases can be easily treated with prescription medicines. Have your doctor check your condition to determine any potentially serious causes. Your vertigo may not be due to an ear infection, so it is crucial to rule out any life-threatening problems first.

How to Manage Vertigo Symptoms

If your doctor approves, there are some home remedies that will help you if you have been diagnosed with vertigo. Although scientific evidence is still lacking, some people claim to have found relief from using herbal solutions, Vitamin D supplements, acupuncture, and essential oils, such as peppermint and lavender.

Exercise and lifestyle changes can also help alleviate the effects of vertigo. As soon as an episode occurs, you can sit down or lay still in a dark, quiet room. It also seems to help if you squat instead of bend over upon picking something up. If needed, use a cane when walking and don’t rush to perform certain movements that might trigger vertigo symptoms. People with vertigo are also discouraged from using a ladder or driving.

If you are looking for relief from any type of dizziness, please take our self-test to see if your vertigo-like symptoms are being caused by your eyes. Still have questions? Visit The Dizziness and Headache Optometry Center in Santa Barbara, California, or contact us today at (805) 626-3400 .

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