by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Vertigo is a feeling of spinning when a person is standing still. It can be caused by many different health problems.
The inner ear and nerves sense the position of a person's head and body. Vertigo can happen when there are problems with these nerves and structures. It may also be due to problems in the brain, but this is not as common.
The two main types of vertigo are:
Peripheral vertigo is common and caused by problems with the inner ear. Causes may be:
Central vertigo is less common but more serious. It happens due to changes in the brainstem or the cerebellum. These parts of the brain control balance. Changes can be caused by:
The conditions above will raise a person's risk of vertigo.
Problems may be:
Vertigo is not the same as feeling lightheaded. A person who is lightheaded does not have a feeling of movement.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Tests to look for a cause may include:
Some lifestyle changes can help manage vertigo, such as using a cane to help with balance. Treating the cause may also stop the vertigo.
Some medicines that cause vertigo may need to be stopped or changed. Medicines that may ease or stop symptoms are:
There are no current guidelines to prevent vertigo.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Vestibular Disorders Association
BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Canadian Academy of Audiology
Dizziness and vertigo. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-ear-problems/dizziness-and-vertigo?query=vertigo. Updated March 2019. Accessed April 8, 2020.
Dizziness—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Accessed April 8, 2020.
Living with a vestibular disorder. Vestibular Disorders Association website. Available at: https://vestibular.org/living-vestibular-disorder/everyday-challenges. Accessed April 8, 2020.
Muncie HL, Sirmans SM, et al. Dizziness: Approach to Evaluation and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Feb 1;95(3):154-162.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 4/8/2020