An older man experiencing vertigo
Healthy Living

All About Vertigo: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

Mar 5 2021

Have you even experienced a spinning sensation when you bend down to empty the dishwasher, lean back in a dentist’s chair or merely roll over in bed?   

Vertigo is a temporary sensation that makes you feel like you’re in a spinning or tilting room. This isn’t necessarily a dangerous condition, but it can feel scary when it’s happening.

Types of vertigo

There are two types of vertigo. Peripheral vertigo happens because of inner ear problems. Central vertigo happens when you have health complications in your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spine.

Although vertigo can be caused by various medical conditions, the most common disorder is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. This kind of vertigo occurs more frequently in older adults as the tiny calcium carbonate crystals of your inner ear loosen and migrate into a different part of the ear canal, signally to the brain that you’re moving when you’re not. The resultant spinning sensation usually lasts only a minute or so. However, changes in head position can bring it on multiple times a day and at times can be intense enough to cause nausea.

Risk factors for vertigo

Besides inner ear and nervous system problems, you can be at risk of having vertigo if:

  • You have a head injury
  • You’ve overindulged in alcohol
  • You take antiseizure medications

Though women over 65 are more at risk for vertigo, it can happen to anyone at any age. For example, Meniere’s disease often affects people between 40 and 60 years of age.

Symptoms of vertigo

If you suddenly feel like the world around you is tilting or spinning, you may have vertigo. Along with a spinning sensation, you may feel nauseous, headachy and lightheaded. If you feel like you want to faint, it’s probably not vertigo.

While vertigo itself isn’t dangerous, people who experience it are more likely to have balance issues. This can lead to a higher fall risk and make people less able to complete those daily activities such as bathing and dressing due to fear and balance issues. Some feel so unsteady that they hold onto walls or furniture for safety when walking.

If you think you are suffering from vertigo, you’ll want to see your health care provider to get properly diagnosed.

Treatments for vertigo

An episode of peripheral vertigo usually goes away on its own in a few minutes. Sometimes it lasts for hours or weeks. If your vertigo lasts a long time, there is treatment. Doctors often prescribe anti-nausea drugs to slow down the dizziness. You can also use a cane or walking device to prevent falls.

Good news with BPPV specifically, it is treatable. This is accomplished by a repositioning technique known as the Epley maneuver. The process is quick and generally symptoms can be resolved in just several treatments.

Feeling dizzy isn’t a normal part of aging. If you suffer from vertigo, consult your physician regarding BPPV specifically. A referral to Mercy Health Rehabilitation Center where trained therapists can evaluate your condition and provide treatment will have you feeling better in no time. 

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