Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness and spinning, occurring with or without any movement. It is caused when the brain feels the body is off-balance even though it is not.
When feeling dizzy, a person should sit down immediately to reduce the chances of getting hurt if they fall.
Usually, vertigo is a symptom of an underlying medical condition or several different conditions. Sometimes, vertigo will only occur once, but for other people, it will reoccur until the underlying cause is determined.
- Symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and may come and go.
- Treatment for vertigo will depend on the cause.
- Medication can relieve symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and motion sickness.
Vertigo may cause headaches, nausea, double vision, or changes in hearing.
In addition to causing a person feelings of being unbalanced or spinning, vertigo can lead to the following symptoms:
- nausea or vomiting
- abnormal eye movements
- ear ringing
- hearing loss
- double vision
- lack of coordination
- arm or leg weakness
What are the causes?
Benign positional paroxysmal vertigo or BPPV is the most common type of vertigo. A buildup of deposits in the inner ear causes BPPV.
The inner ear is responsible for the body's sense of balance. With BPPV, certain movements may cause dizziness and a spinning sensation for a short time.
BPPV is a common condition. Most people have a lifetime prevalence of 2.4 percent, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia. Also, BPPV recurs 50 percent of the time, according to a 2014 report published in the journal Advances in Otolaryngology.
Other conditions that may cause vertigo include:
- Cold viruses: The common cold can cause ear inflammation. This type of vertigo usually resolves within a few days but can reoccur.
- A head or neck injury: Vertigo is a common symptom that can follow a head or neck injury. Vertigo related to a neck or head injury tends to resolve but can be debilitating and ongoing.
- Stroke: According to the American Stroke Association, someone experiencing a stroke may have vertigo, including symptoms of dizziness and severe imbalance. A stroke will cause dizziness and imbalance rather than just one.
- Vestibular neuritis or VN: VN is a condition affecting the vestibulocochlear nerve in the inner ear. This nerve is responsible for balance and head-positioning signals received in the brain. When the nerve is inflamed, the brain misinterprets balance and head positioning.
- Meniere's disease: Meniere's is a condition that affects hearing in one ear. It causes symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and a feeling of "fullness" in the ear. Some people with Meniere's disease have severe vertigo, causing balance loss and falls.
Most of the time, vertigo resolves without treatment, as the brain can compensate for changes to the inner ear to restore someone's balance.
Medications, such as steroids, can reduce inner ear inflammation, and water pills can reduce fluid buildup.
For people who have recurrent episodes of vertigo, a physical therapy called vestibular rehabilitation can help. Vestibular rehabilitation encourages the central nervous system to compensate for inner ear problems.
Home remedies for vertigo
Vertigo can be managed naturally with a variety of home remedies.
The Epley maneuver is often recommended by chiropractors or physical therapists as a way of treating vertigo at home.
One of the most common ways to manage vertigo is a technique called the Epley maneuver. This involves a set of steps done before bed each night until the symptoms of vertigo resolve for at least 24 hours.
A report from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care says 52 out of every 100 people who use the Epley maneuver gain relief from vertigo symptoms.
If symptoms of vertigo occur from the left side and left ear, the Epley maneuver can be done by:
- sitting on the edge of a bed and turning the head 45 degrees to the left
- lying down quickly and facing head up on the bed at a 45-degree angle
- maintaining the position for 30 minutes
- turning the head halfway — 90 degrees — to the right without raising it for 30 seconds
- turning the head and entire body to the right side, looking downward for 30 seconds
- slowly sitting up but remaining sitting for at least a few minutes
If vertigo starts on the right side in the right ear, these directions should be done in reverse.
Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese herb known for resolving the symptoms of vertigo. It works by managing blood flow to the brain to relieve dizziness and balance issues.
A study reported in the International Journal of Otolaryngology finds Ginkgo biloba is just as effective as the medication betahistine in managing vertigo.
Ginger root can be steeped in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. Honey can help with the bitter taste. Drinking ginger tea twice a day may help dizziness, nausea, and other vertigo symptoms.
Almonds are rich sources of vitamins A, B, and E. Eating a daily handful of almonds can help with vertigo symptoms.
How almonds help is unknown, but it is possible the vitamin content can combat the causes of vertigo.
Dehydration can cause symptoms of vertigo. Even mild dehydration can trigger the condition.
Staying hydrated can help minimize dizziness and balance issues.
The body needs 8 to 12 cups of liquid per day. While this includes all liquids, water is the best option because it is calorie- and caffeine-free and not a diuretic. Diuretics increase the amount of water and salt the body expels as urine.
Apple cider and honey
Both apple cider and honey are believed to have curative properties to relieve blood flow to the brain. Two parts honey and one part apple cider can prevent and treat vertigo symptoms.
Various essential oils, when applied topically or inhaled, may help to ease the symptoms of vertigo.
Essential oils are natural and affordable options for managing the symptoms of vertigo, including nausea, headaches, and dizziness.
Some of the options available for managing vertigo include peppermint, ginger, lavender, and lemon essential oils.
Essential oils are inhaled through an infuser or diluted in a carrier oil before being applied topically. A person may have to experiment with a variety of oils to find the best one to treat their vertigo symptoms.
Acupressure applies the same concepts as acupuncture, but it is without the needles. The goal of acupressure is to promote wellness and relaxation. It can help manage vertigo by stimulating pressure points throughout the body.
One common method, called the P6 acupressure method, involves an effective pressure point located in the two tendons between the inner forearm and the wrist.
When to see a doctor
Anyone who has reoccurrences of vertigo should see their doctor. For most people, vertigo is usually not harmful, but the underlying cause needs to be identified. A doctor can also prescribe medications and other treatments to lessen symptoms, especially if home remedies do not help.