Vertigo is a feeling of spinning or whirling when you are not moving. It can also be an exaggerated feeling of motion when your body is still. Vertigo is a symptom that can be caused by many different conditions. Vertigo is different from passing dizziness or lightheadedness.
Inner ear nerves and structures sense the position of your head and body in space. Vertigo is often caused by problems with these nerves and structures. Less commonly, it is due to problems in the brain.
Vertigo can be classified as:
Vertigo of peripheral origin is caused by problems of the inner ear. It is the most common type of vertigo. Causes may include:
Vertigo of central origin is not as common as vertigo of peripheral origin, but it is more serious. This type of vertigo is affects the brainstem or the cerebellum, the region of the brain that controls balance. Causes may include:
Vertigo is a symptom that may be caused by many conditions. Having any of the conditions will make your more prone to having vertigo.
Common vertigo symptoms include:
Vertigo is different than lightheadedness. With lightheadedness, there is no sensation of movement. People often feel lightheaded before they faint.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. To find the cause of your vertigo, additional tests may be done. Tests may include:
Vertigo is a symptom of another medical condition. Treatment will focus managing the underlying medical condition. Efforts may also be used to decrease the symptoms of vertigo. These may include one or more of the following:
In some cases, you may need to stop taking medications that may be causing your vertigo.
Living with vertigo can be challenging, but not impossible. Try these tips:
If you are in a crowded open space, or out in public:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Vestibular Disorders Association
Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Canadian Academy of Audiology
Chan Y. Differential diagnosis of dizziness. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009;17(3):200-203.
Dizziness and vertigo. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear_nose_and_throat_disorders/approach_to_the_patient_with_ear_problems/dizziness_and_vertigo.html. Updated January 2009. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Dizziness—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360974/Dizziness-differential-diagnosis. Updated September 8, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2016.
Karatas M. Central vertigo and dizziness: Epidemiology, differential diagnosis, and common causes. Neurologist. 2008;14(6):355-364.
Mukherjee A, Chatterjee SK, et al. Vertigo and dizziness-a clinical approach. J Assoc Physicians India. 2003;51:1095-1101.
Strategies for everyday living. Vestibular Disorders Association website. Available at: http://vestibular.org/living-vestibular-disorder/everyday-challenges. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Swartz R, Longwell P. Treatment of vertigo. Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(6):1115-1122.
7/2/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Oh HJ, Kim JS, et al. Predicting a successful treatment in posterior canal benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Neurology. 2007;68:1219-1222.
9/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, Family Practitioner Program. Evaluation of vertigo in the adult patient. Austin (Tx): University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing; 2014 May. 19 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48220#Section427. Accessed September 10, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
What can we help you find?close ×