Physical balance is something that can be easily taken for granted, but it is crucial to how we move and how we perceive the world around us. Our balance is our method of maintaining postural control and stability as well as our equilibrium, all of which helps to keep the body upright, focused when we are in motion, and helps to keep the head and neck centered.
Conditions that affect balance, like dizziness and vertigo, are likely to affect at least 40% of U.S. adults during their lifetime, with women at slightly higher risk. Vertigo and dizziness, while similar, are not the same, and vertigo is potentially indicative of other conditions. To better understand how vertigo affects you, let’s explore more about how it works, what are its causes and symptoms, and how it is treated.
At Integrative Medica, our naturopathic physicians, Dr. Jake Schmutz and Dr. Joshua Hersh canhelp with vertigo, dizziness, or other problems with balance. We offer compassionate care for a wide variety of ear, nose, and throat conditions to patients of all ages, including telehealth visits and flexible appointment scheduling.
Vertigo and dizziness are sometimes confused as both can cause you to become unbalanced, but vertigo is often the more severe. Dizziness will make you feel unbalanced and a possible fall risk, whereas vertigo will make you feel like your environment is actually spinning around you, or that you’re spinning in your environment. There are two types of vertigo, peripheral and central, which often only affect you for short periods of time, but can last for hours or days. Peripheral vertigo results from problems with the inner ear (vestibular nerve), while central vertigo comes from problems in the brain.
Causes and symptoms
Various factors and conditions can lead to vertigo, such as:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): the most common type of vertigo, which is often the result of a rapid change in head movement or a hitting your head
- Infection: labyrinthitis is an infection of the vestibular nerve, which may cause intense and lasting vertigo
- Meniere’s disease: excessive buildup of fluid in the inner ear that may lead to sudden episodes for hours
- Migraine: migraine attacks can cause vertigo that can last for hours
- Traumatic injury: severe head and neck injury can damage the vestibular system, causing vertigo
- Medications: some medications have a risk of causing vertigo, including codeine, some antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antivirals, and drugs for Parkinson’s disease
Other possible causes include low blood pressure (hypotension), muscle weakness, prolonged bed rest, stroke, diabetes, tumors, shingles, or syphilis. Other than dizziness and balance issues, you may be experiencing vertigo if it comes with nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, motion sickness, headaches, increased sweating, or involuntary eye movement.
Treating vertigo will depend on the conditions that cause it, but here are the multiple ways it can be managed:
Vestibular rehabilitation exercises to improve vertigo include gaze stabilization, habituation, and balance training. The Brandt-Daroff exercises are used to dislodge crystals from the semicircular canal in your ear, and the Semont, Epley, and Forest maneuvers are designed to help with BPPV.
Meclizine is an antihistamine used to treat allergies, but is effective in treating both vertigo and motion sickness. It has a risk of causing confusion or amnesia in older people.
In the cases where this condition is caused by head trauma or a brain tumor, surgery may be necessary to treat those underlying issues to relieve vertigo.
Vertigo can be unsettling, but it is treatable and we’re here to help. If you’re dealing with vertigo or other balance issues, call our office or send us a message through our website so we can schedule an appointment for you at our Salt Lake City, Utah office.