What can be done about vertigo? Is it a symptom of something more severe?
First, we should clarify our terms. People sometimes use the words vertigo and dizziness interchangeably. But vertigo extends beyond the common usage of dizziness — that lightheadedness or slight wooziness you may feel when you have the flu.
Vertigo refers to the sensation that you or the world outside your body is spinning or moving around. This can make it difficult or impossible to walk. People experiencing vertigo often lose their sense of balance and become nauseated.
Vertigo may result when something affects the vestibular structures in the inner ear, which, in conjunction with the brain, control the sense of equilibrium. It can also occur when there is a problem in the brain or in the nerves connecting the brain and inner ear.
One of the most common causes of vertigo is motion sickness, but there are many other possibilities, including infections, Meniere’s disease, tumors, circulatory problems, migraine headaches, drinking too much alcohol and more. Benign positional vertigo is a harmless inner ear disorder that usually affects older people. The vertigo comes on suddenly, triggered by movement of the head, and lasts less than a minute.
Naturally, treatment depends on what is causing the vertigo, if the cause is known. Benign positional vertigo typically goes away by itself and requires no treatment. Some kinds of vestibular disorders improve with a special kind of exercise and therapy called vestibular rehabilitation.