Are you feeling off-balanced or experiencing sudden feeling of dizziness or losing focus? These might be frightening sensations one can get. Though the sensation may last for only few minutes, it can make people sick and limit their motion. Commonly known as vertigo, this condition is a symptom of an underlying health problem or multiple health problems.
What is Vertigo?
"Vertigo" is one common type of dizziness. The sensation can last for a short time or it can stay for a few hours or days. Vertigo can make you feel like you are moving or like the room is moving around you, even when you are still. Vertigo can be caused by a number of different problems involving the inner ear or brain. One can experience the condition at any time. It can be while walking down the street or while sitting at the office that you may experience the false sense of your surroundings moving around or you moving around it.
Symptoms of vertigo
- Spinning (or the room is spinning around you)
- Tilting or swaying
- You tend to feel off-balanced
These symptoms can be at times frequent or irregular. You may feel worse when you move your head, change position, cough or sneeze. Depending on the triggers for vertigo, one may also show the following symptoms.
- Nausea or vomiting
- A headache or sensitivity to light and noise
- Double vision, trouble speaking or swallowing, or weakness
- Shortness of breath, sweating, or a racing heartbeat
What causes Vertigo:
Many conditions can lead to Vertigo. It is predominantly due to an imbalance in the inner ear or could be due to a problem associated with the central nervous system. Other common reasons for vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo which occurs due to the calcium build up in canals of the inner ear and vestibular neuritis which leads to ear infection and that causes inflammation around the nerves that help the body sense balance. Among the other conditions that can lead to vertigo are migraine, head injury, headache, ear surgery, brain stem disease and stroke attack. Certain types of medications can also trigger vertigo. Sometimes, prolonged bed rest can also be one of the causes of vertigo.
When to seek help?
If you are having any symptoms of dizziness or vertigo along with other conditions like headache, fever, you should consult your doctor immediately. Seek help from the doctors when you have the following symptoms along with vertigo.
- New or severe headache
- Fever higher than 100.4ºF (38ºC)
- Double vision or having trouble seeing clearly
- Trouble in speaking or hearing
- Weakness in your arm or leg
- An inability to walk without assistance
- Passing out
- Numbness or tingling
- Chest pain
- Prolonged Vomiting
Risk factors of vertigo:
- An older adult (60 years or older)
- Have had a stroke in the past
- Have risk factors for stroke (eg, high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking)
Vertigo is not a very dangerous condition, except that the sudden sensation of dizziness or imbalance can lead to discomfort. Few people may experience vertigo or dizziness at irregular intervals and they may not have any of the other symptoms. In such cases it is advised to consult your doctor for the further examination. Depending on the problem the person is facing, the doctor can recommend the following tests.
- Examination of the eyes: Your doctor might ask you to follow an object with your eyes, or focus on something while moving your head from side to side.
- Examination of balance and gait: This test involves watching the way you walk. This is to see whether you lean or tilt to one side while walking and also to check your balance while you stand still.
- Hearing test: Your doctor or nurse will check your hearing in both ears.
Additional tests might include an imaging test, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to look at the structure of your brain.
Disease-specific treatment: If the cause for your vertigo is identified, then the doctors will suggest medications, procedures, or lifestyle changes. In few cases, treating the underlying condition relieves or resolves vertigo. This will also help in slowing disease progression and improving the overall prognosis.
Relieving vertigo and related symptoms: If the episodes of vertigo that are severe or last for hours or days, then doctor may recommend a medication to relieve severe vertigo and associated symptoms, like vomiting. Treatment with medication is not usually recommended if your vertigo lasts only seconds or minutes.
If you feel you are losing balance while standing and continuous dizziness, it is recommended to visit the Ear and Vertigo Clinic and neuro-equilibrium vertigo assessment team. Visiting hospitals are safe as they are taking all the necessary precautions for patients safety.
By Dr. Jyotirmay S Hegde, Consultant-ENT, Head and Neck Surgery, Columbia Asia Hospital, Whitefield