What is Vertigo?

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By Dr. Scott Colasanti
Published on February 4, 2014

Vertigo is the sensation of the environment moving around you is when there really is no movement. Vertigo is basically a type of dizziness, which is often accompanied by nausea and/or loss of balance and can be a serious and debilitating condition.

Types of Vertigo:

There are basically two types of vertigo: central vertigo and peripheral vertigo.

Central Vertigo

Central vertigo is caused by a disturbance in the balance centers of the central nervous system and is often associated with some type of lesion in the brain. This is a more serious type of vertigo and is often accompanied by serious balance problems and other neurological deficits. There are many disorders that can cause vertigo such as tumors, epilepsy, and migraines. This type of vertigo is usually longer lasting than peripheral vertigo and is usually treated with medication or surgery, depending on the cause.

Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is a problem with the inner ear, which contains our balance organs. These organs are fluid-filled chambers which contain nerve endings that respond to our position in space. Our position causes movement of the fluid, which then interacts with the nerve endings that relay information to our brain, which in turn processes and then coordinates it so our body can maintain balance and position sense.

Meniere’s Disease

Most of us have experienced peripheral vertigo as motion sickness after being on a rocking boat or after spinning on a carnival ride. This type of vertigo can also be caused by an infection in the middle ear. Another type of peripheral vertigo which is accompanied by ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and a sense of pressure or fullness in our ears is known as Meniere’s disease. There is no know origin of this condition and it is usually progressive and may lead to deafness.

BPPV: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

The most common type of peripheral vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV. This occurs when small calcium deposits called otoliths break off and ‘float’ around in the fluid-filled chambers, causing the nerve fibers to trigger which in turn causes vertigo. In this condition, the vertigo is usually made worse by certain head movements. BPPV can be diagnosed by a specific test whereby the head is turned to reproduce the symptoms. BPPV can be successfully treated by the Epley Maneuver, which puts the head through ranges of motion to allow the ‘exit’ of the otoliths from the fluid chambers, thus alleviating the symptoms. This often works within 1 or 2 treatments. More persistent causes of vertigo may benefit with chiropractic adjustments and/or acupuncture.

If you develop vertigo or know someone who is experiencing vertigo symptoms, a proper diagnosis is a must. However, depending on the type of vertigo, it may respond well to these drug-free approaches.


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