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Vertigo is a feeling of spinning or whirling when you are still. It is a symptom that can be caused by many different issues.
Vertigo is different from passing dizziness or lightheadedness.
The inner ear and nerves sense the position of your head and body in space. Vertigo is often caused by problems with these nerves and structures. It may also be due to problems in the brain but this is rare.
There are two main types of vertigo including:
Problems of the inner ear are cause of this kind of vertigo. It is the most common type of vertigo. Causes may include:
This type is less common but more serious. Changes in the brainstem or the cerebellum cause this type of vertigo. These parts of the brain control balance. Changes can be caused by:
The conditions above will increase your risk of vertigo.
Common vertigo symptoms include:
Vertigo is different than lightheadedness. With lightheadedness, there is no feeling of movement.
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests may be done to look for a cause. Tests may include:
Treatment will focus on the cause of the vertigo. Treating the cause may stop the vertigo. Medicine may help to lessen or stop the vertigo. Options 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 hard but not impossible. Try these tips:
If you are out in public:
There are no current steps to prevent vertigo.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Vestibular Disorders Association
BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Canadian Academy of Audiology
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9/10/2014 DynaMed Plus 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 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 10/1/2018