Vertigo is a condition that causes you to feel dizzy. You may feel that you or everything around you is moving or spinning. You may also feel like you are being pulled down or toward your side.

What causes vertigo?

The inner ear is filled with fluid, a nerve, and small organs. These structures help you maintain your balance. Vertigo may be caused by diseases or conditions that affect your inner ear or the part of your brain that controls balance. Any of the following can cause vertigo:

  • Small particles that float in the inner ear fluid move out of place and cause irritation
  • Ménière disease
  • Ear trauma
  • An inner ear infection
  • A neurologic condition such as multiple sclerosis, migraine, tumor, or stroke
  • Panic and anxiety disorders
  • Drinking a large amount of alcohol

What signs and symptoms may happen with vertigo?

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble with your balance
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Weakness, slurred speech, problems seeing or moving, or increased sleepiness
  • Facial weakness and headache
  • Hearing loss, ear fullness or pain, or hearing ringing sounds
  • Fast, uncontrolled movement of your eyes

How is vertigo diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider about past diseases, travels, activities, trauma, and medicines. Your healthcare provider may move your head in different directions. This will check to see if a problem in the inner ear is causing your vertigo. You may be asked to do some exercises that could make you dizzy. You may also need one or more of the following to find the cause of vertigo:

  • An electronystagmography (ENG) is done to test for problems you may have with balance or dizziness. Sticky pads with wires are placed on the skin around your eyes. The wires are connected to a machine that records information during your ENG. Warm and cool air or water is put into your ears while your eye movements are recorded. Do not drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before this test. You may feel dizzy or nauseated after the test.
  • An auditory brainstem response (ABR) test is used to play a series of clicks through headsets on your ears. A machine measures how your cochlea and nerves react to the clicks.
  • An MRI of the brain may be used to check for problems that can cause vertigo. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious damage. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is vertigo treated?

Treatment will depend on the condition causing the vertigo. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you rest in bed or avoid certain activities for a time. You may need to decrease or stop taking medicines that are causing your vertigo. Medicines may also be prescribed to help relieve your symptoms.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

  • meclizine
  • Antivert
  • Dramamine II
  • Bonine
  • Phenergan

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Do not drive , walk without help, or operate heavy machinery when you are dizzy.
  • Move slowly when you move from one position to another position. Get up slowly from sitting or lying down. Sit or lie down right away if you feel dizzy.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Liquids help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Vestibular and balance rehabilitation therapy (VBRT) is used to teach you exercises to improve your balance and strength. These exercises may help decrease your vertigo and improve your balance. Ask for more information about this therapy.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a headache and a stiff neck.
  • You have shaking chills and a fever.
  • You vomit over and over with no relief.
  • You have blood, pus, or fluid coming out of your ears.
  • You are confused.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.