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What is Central Vertigo?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Central vertigo is one of two types of vertigo that can occur in humans. Unlike peripheral vertigo, which is usually caused by a problem in the inner ear, central vertigo can be a symptom of a serious condition in the brainstem or cerebellum. Though this type of vertigo can be serious, it can also occur as an isolated incident. Vertigo is a relatively common condition, and a large percentage of people experience it at one time or another.

People who experience central vertigo feel a sensation of dizziness or movement when in a stable, unmoving environment. The disorientation which this causes can lead to nausea, weakness, and difficulty seeing or hearing. For many patients, the symptoms of vertigo come and go, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a number of days. The condition can come on gradually or can be acute, occurring without warning.

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The primary causes of central vertigo are diseases or conditions that affect the cerebellum or brainstem. Patients who suffer from migraine headaches commonly report vertigo as a side effect of the migraine. Multiple sclerosis can also lead to vertigo because the disease affects the central nervous system. Problems with blood flow to the brain, such as stroke or disease of the vertebrobasilar system, which supplies blood to certain regions of the brain, including the cerebellum and the brainstem, can cause vertigo as well. Patients with certain congenital deformities may also suffer from this condition, though in this case, it is only possible to treat the symptoms, as the malformation cannot be corrected.

There are a number of medications available for people who suffer from central vertigo. For the most part, medication treats the symptoms of vertigo, such as the dizziness or nausea, without addressing the underlying cause. Resting and lying down until the symptoms improve are also recommended for most patients, in order to lessen the severity of symptoms. Patients are also advised to avoid vertigo triggers, such as nicotine.

While treating the symptoms of vertigo may help a patient in the short term, curing chronic vertigo requires that the underlying condition be diagnosed and treated. It is sometimes possible to treat central vertigo with the use of neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors or gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) modulators. Central vertigo brought on by a stroke may be treated with the use of medications that thin blood or that dissolve blood clots.

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