May 23, 2014
(1) Vertigo is a symptom and not a disease. When trying to distinguish vertigo from other forms of dizziness it is necessary to be very specific and focused on what exactly it is that the patient is experiencing. There are three things that classically characterize an attack of vertigo and these are:
1. It is of sudden onset.
2. Everything spins around the suffer such that they need to hold on to something solid like a door post, table or chair to give them a reference point.
3. It is frightening – the victims think that they are having a stroke.
These are the classic characteristics of a vertigo attach and if all three are not present then what the patient is experiencing may not be vertigo at all but some other form of dizziness. An attack of vertigo may or may not be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
(2) Causes of Vertigo: Most causes of vertigo relate to the vestibular system or balance mechanism located in the inner ear. In the main these are:
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. This would account for about 30% of all cases of vertigo. The attack is of sudden onset and may be triggered by moving the head into certain positions. The attack is short lived – usually lasts only a few seconds and is thought to be caused by tiny solid crystals forming within the fluid of the balance mechanism.
2. Meniere’s Disease. This is a chronic recurring form of vertigo attacks characterized by accompanying nausea, vomiting and tinnitus or constant ringing in the ear. Again, this is a disorder of the inner ear or vestibular system. It may account for 10% of all cases of vertigo.
3. The remaining causes of vertigo would be due to viral infections such as vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis – both structures within the inner ear’s balancing mechanism. They may or may not be accompanied by influenza or simple head cold.
(3) Treatment of vertigo. Put very simply, the treatment of vertigo will depend on cause. Finding the underlying cause for vertigo attacks requires specialist knowledge and equipment. In most case a sufferer of recent onset vertigo attacks will need to be seen by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to have the condition properly diagnosed before appropriate treatment can be commenced.
And finally, a word of warning in this regard. On the Internet you may see this and that being offered as a treatment for vertigo. In the majority of cases purchasing such “treatments” is the absence of proper diagnosis will be inappropriate and a waste of time. More seriously, in very rare cases, vertigo may be an early symptom of brain tumor and this need to be born in mind.
If you are worried about recurring dizziness or vertigo and have any questions I would be more than happy to give you help and advice where possible..