What are the Different Types of Vertigo?

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  • Originally Written By: Teresa McCraw
  • Revised By: Sarah Kay Moll
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2019
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Vertigo is a form of dizziness that causes a feeling of movement when standing still. At times, it might feel like the affected person or the room is rapidly spinning or swaying. This sensation can temporarily make a person lose his or her balance, and some people feel nauseous and vomit during or after an episode. Vertigo is usually divided into two different types, peripheral and central, depending on the origin of the sensation.

Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo occurs when there is a problem with the vestibular system. This is the organs and structures that help a person know his position in space, detect movements of the head, and allow the person to keep his balance. The vestibular nerve sends signals from the vestibular system to the brain.

Within the vestibular labyrinth, an organ in the inner ear, there are structures called the otolith organs and fluid-filled semicircular canals that detect movement and allow the brain to determine the head's location in relation to the ground. The otolith organs contain calcium crystals that make people sensitive to gravity and motion. Problems with the inner ear, such as inflammation from illnesses like the flu or a cold, can disrupt this system and cause vertigo.


Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common forms. It is characterized by brief periods of dizziness, typically when there are sudden changes in the position of the head, such as when a person tips his or her head up or down or sits up in bed. A person with BPPV may have difficulty with balance when standing up or walking, with feelings of dizziness that range from mild to severe. BPPV, although distressing, is not a serious condition and is usually treated with exercises to move the head and dislodge the crystals causing the problem. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Often, there isn't a specific cause of BPPV, though the vestibular labyrinth plays an important role. If the crystals move from the otolith organs into the semicircular canals, they can become very sensitive to changes in the position of the head. This movement is can be caused by a blow to the head, but often has no clear reason. Some people who suffer from migraines are also diagnosed with BPPV, though it is not clear if there is a connection between the two.

Meniere’s Disease

This disease, the cause of which is not entirely clear, can make the fluid pressure in the inner ear fluctuate, which results in dizziness, as well as hearing loss and a sense of fullness in the ear. To treat Meniere’s disease, a patient may be placed on a low-sodium diet and prescribed a diuretic to manage the fluid in the inner ear, which can help decrease or diminish the symptoms. Treatment often also includes medications to alleviate the nausea that accompanies episodes. In some cases, medications may be injected directly into the middle ear, or surgery to remove the structures causing the symptoms may be performed.

Other Causes

An ear infection, cold, or influenza can cause swelling in the inner ear, which may trigger cases of vertigo. The vestibular nerve may also get infected or compressed, so that it can no longer transmit signals between the ear and the brain correctly. There are some medications that may disrupt the function of the vestibular system as well. In some cases, once the illness has passed or the medication is discontinued, the dizziness may go away, but it can be permanent.

Central Vertigo

Central vertigo is caused by an injury to or problem with the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord. Often, this disorder results from lesions in the brainstem, the lower part of the brain that connects to the spinal cord. Problems with the cerebellum, the area at the lower back of the brain that plays a critical role in coordinating movement, can also cause vertigo.

Tumors or strokes may also cause brain damage that leads to balance problems. Degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, can also cause vertigo, along with other symptoms. Treatments tend to focus on treating the cause of the damage. The brain is a very complex and sensitive organ, so this type of vertigo tends to respond slowly to treatment and is not always fully treatable.


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Post 11

My doctor tells me that I have Meniere's with the nerve deafness. It's in my family, along with tinnitus, and now vertigo the past few years. My mom and my brother both had motion sickness when riding in a car. My dad had a boat and it never bothered me when I was young, nor did it bother my sister.

Mom and a few of my aunts took antivert for many years. I started with Meclize but it never helped.

My doctor now has me on small doses of Valium. Usually, my episodes only last for a couple of days, but this time I've been into my third week. I hope it goes away soon. I love yard work, garden, flowers, etc. I do get nauseated, but haven't vomited.

Post 10

I suffer from head spins and am always sick. I also sweat a lot and sometimes lie on a cold floor with the back door open to cool down. It's very frightening.

My doctor said it's my inner ears since I get ear infections.

I went to the hospital and had my ears suctioned. Although I still get head spins, no one can seem to be able to help me. I also get the feeling of slight giddiness most days which I can live with, but am still worried they will turn into a full blown headspin.

Post 9

Panic attacks brought on my vertigo. In fact, extreme dizziness and lightheadedness were among the first signs that I was about to have one.

They would come when I least expected it. I didn’t even have to be thinking about anything stressful. All of a sudden, I would feel a light tingling in my hands, followed by a sudden drop in my center of gravity. I felt like I was floating away from reality, and the room did spin a bit.

I’m so glad I don’t have them anymore. They made me feel really ill. I would get hot and short of breath, and I could not walk until the vertigo disappeared.

Post 8

I suffer from vertigo anytime that I squat for awhile and then stand up. It happens to me in stores when I lower myself to look at something on a shelf near the floor and then stand upright. I become very lightheaded for a few moments, and I feel like I am going to faint.

The first time that it happened, I was in a shoe store. I had to squat down because they had my size on the bottom shelf, and when I stood up again, I saw spots and felt faint. I’ve never been to a doctor about it, because all of my friends say they experience the same thing.

Post 7

My sister was having terrible symptoms of vertigo, dizziness and nausea. She would get sick to her stomach because the dizziness was so bad.

They figured out she had an inner ear infection that was causing all of her symptoms. There are many causes of vertigo, but because hers was an infection, it had to be treated with antibiotics.

Even this was not a quick fix. It took a few weeks before her vertigo and dizziness completely went away.

Post 6

I have a history of migraine headaches, and the very first clue that I have one coming on is a feeling of vertigo.

It doesn't matter whether I am laying down or standing up, when I start to feel things spinning around me, I know that the migraine is not far away.

I am not sure what causes the vertigo, but it does give me an opportunity to take my migraine medicine before it gets too bad. If I can do this right away, the migraine is not has bad and I don't have to spend the whole day in bed.

Post 5

The older I get the more often I have symptoms of vertigo. One of the things I do most often that causes this to happen is bending down to work in my garden.

If I am bending down for awhile and stand up too quickly, I get dizzy and things start spinning around. I have learned that if I stand up slowly, this doesn't happen nearly as often.

The blood must flow down to my head when I have my head down, and the sudden change in movement is what probably causes the dizziness. This dizziness usually only lasts for a few seconds, but is still not a pleasant thing to have happen.

Post 4

@Oasis11 -I read that there are surgical treatments for vertigo. They basically put a plug in your inner ear to offset the imbalance and it is supposed to be really effective.

In fact they say that the operation has a 90% success rate. I looked into it because I have problems with vertigo and I am looking for anything that can help. I feel like I am missing out on things because I am so afraid of doing something that make my vertigo symptoms flare up.

Post 3

My mother in law suffers from severe symptoms of vertigo from time to time. She is very sensitive to motion and gets sick easily. Last winter, she tried to go on a cruise to the Caribbean and got so sick that she had to take a flight out once the ship docked.

Although the ship contained stabilizers that would prevent most people from getting seasick, my mother in law is so sensitive to motion because of her vertigo that the slightest movement can make her sick.

She says that she starts to feel like the room is spinning and then gets really light headed and begins to vomit. It is really a terrible condition to live with because

there is no vertigo cure.

My husband also has some problems with vertigo and he says that it related to an inner ear imbalance that both he and his mom share. I think that the vertigo symptoms get progressively worse with age because my mother in law's symptoms are far worse than what my husband experiences.

Post 2

I am convinced that my mother suffers from spontaneous vertigo because sometimes she just loses her balance completely and complains that the world is spinning. She usually makes it to a chair OK so she doesn't fall, but there have been a few close calls.

My mother is really stubborn and while I want her to see a doctor about a condition she always refuses saying that she'll be just fine in a minute. It is worrying and frustrating because she's getting older and a fall would really injure her. We're probably going to have to force her to see a doctor.

Post 1

For years I have had trouble with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. No matter how many times I tell myself I am going to get out of bed slowly in the morning I always end up jumping up in the morning and immediately I get terribly wobbly and my head swims.

The dizziness that I feel usually makes me want to throw up, but I never do. It is just more a feeling of intense discomfort for a few moments until my BPPV passes.

I actually saw my doctor about my vertigo because it was making me feel so ill and he told me to just get up more slowly. When you are groggy in the morning it just isn't always an easy thing to remember.

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