Vertigo is a condition where someone experiences the world around them spinning, rotating or rocking. Children often spin around for some time which causes momentary vertigo which is often entertaining to children. But if vertigo lasts for hours or days, it can make life quite difficult and is sometimes seen in those who have injuries to the head. It’s especially hard for those people who suffer from spontaneous vertigo which occurs without warning.
To understand vertigo, we first need to take a look at how the ear and brain work to help deduce our position in space. In the outer ear, sound waves pass through the outer ear canal to the eardrum which converts the sound into vibrations. These vibrations are transmitted to the cochlea using three delicately small bones called the incus, the malleus, and the stapes. From the cochlea, the vibrations are transferred to the vestibular nerve which converts the vibrations into electrical impulses that are read and processed by the brain.
The inner ear that contains the three small bones also includes some semicircular canals which are positioned at right angles to each other. These canals are filled with sensitive cells that work together with the sensitive hair cells in the canals as a precise gyroscope. This precision organ helps us perceive our environment and our position relative to our surroundings. When this natural gyroscope is disturbed or experiences an imbalance, it causes you to experience vertigo.
The Symptoms And Signs Of Vertigo:
As previously mentioned, when experiencing vertigo, you can feel a sense of moving, spinning falling or tilting of you or your surroundings, even while standing or sitting perfectly still. It’s common to experience a loss of balance, making it hard to walk or stand and may cause you to fall. You can also experience discomfort, nausea or vomiting with vertigo.
There are three types of vertigo:
- Mild vertigo: Happens for a brief time and only occasionally. The symptoms go away on their own. People with mild vertigo have stated that they experience nausea but no vomiting.
- Moderate vertigo: Occurs when you have to prevent head motion (by lying down and being still) to stop feeling vertigo. Vomiting may be experienced along with nausea, but no fluids are ejected.
- Severe vertigo: Happens when you experience vertigo even while lying down motionless. People who experience severe vertigo can cause severe nausea and vomiting where they end up vomiting most of the fluids they drink which can cause dehydration.
Vertigo patients can also show abnormal eye movements (nystagmus) as well as imbalance and difficulty moving about. If the imbalance persists for more than a few days, a stroke or other brain-related problems may be the cause. If this applies to you, it’s suggested to get yourself checked out by your doctor as soon as possible.
The Causes Of Vertigo:
There are two leading causes of vertigo, Peripheral Vertigo, and Central Vertigo. Peripheral vertigo is experienced when there is some problem within the inner ear which causes the feeling of vertigo. The main reasons for experiencing peripheral vertigo include having the inner ear become inflamed due to an illness or having benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This problem occurs when the stones or small crystals (canaliths) that are usually found inside the inner ear get dislodged or displaced. These dislodged stones or small crystals can interfere with the working of the small hair cells found within the semicircular canals causing vertigo. Unlike peripheral vertigo, central vertigo is caused due to a problem in the spinal cord or the brain, causing you to perceive your surroundings while experiencing vertigo.
There are also other causes of vertigo including head injuries, Meniere’s disease, tumors, multiple sclerosis, strokes and basilar artery migraine. You can experience vertigo if your head injury has caused damage to your inner ear. Meniere’s disease causes a fluid build-up within the inner ear which leads to ringing in the ear, hearing loss and vertigo. Having tumors or multiple sclerosis have also caused people to experience vertigo. As for strokes, certain parts of the brain may be affected leading to central vertigo. There are also those who experience basilar artery migraines which are a form of a migraine headache which can cause vertigo.
The Different Forms Of Treatment For Vertigo:
For peripheral vertigo, some effective treatments include reducing the sensitivity of the inner ear nerves as well as particle repositioning which involves helping reposition the loose crystals or stones in the inner ear.
If you want to reduce the symptoms and signs of vertigo, lessening the sensitivity of the nerves in your inner ear can help. The treatment for achieving this is called vestibular rehabilitation habituation exercises, or Cawthorne head exercises. These exercises include some eye and head movements that can cause a reduction in nerve sensitivity of the inner eye which can result in the improvement in vertigo symptoms. It’s recommended to perform the treatment on a regular basis for maximum results.
The most popular treatment for peripheral vertigo is Canalith Repositioning Procedure, also known as Epley Manoeuvre. In this treatment, your head is rotated to allow the loose crystals in the inner ear to move within the inner ear to a position that causes less irritation to the inner ear. This usually helps reduce and eliminate the symptoms of vertigo, but this treatment should be done by a certified healthcare expert because Canalith Repositioning Procedure can cause the vertigo symptoms to worsen before getting better.
If both the previous treatments didn’t work, doctors might recommend taking pharmaceutical medications to help get some relief. Diazepam or other benzodiazepine pills can reduce vertigo but can cause severe side effects like drowsiness. Meclizine is also effective at combating vertigo and is used by many. There are also other medications that can be prescribed to reduce the vomiting or nausea to help relieve the symptoms of vertigo.
But unfortunately, scientists have yet to find any effective drug that works to eliminate vertigo. With regards to home-treatments, vestibular rehabilitation exercises can be done at home and on a regular basis which has shown to be effective against vertigo but the majority of home-remedies available online have very little scientific backing with often unsubstantial benefits.