Vertigo - The Unknown Disease!

By: Mansi Arora

Image Credit: Flickr @ Caff Williams

What is vertigo? Vertigo is a symptom that causes an individual to have the sensation that a surrounding object is moving when it is not. Vertigo is very uncommon in the 21st century and most people that have it,aren’t aware of what it is. Vertigo is sometimes described as dizziness. Many confuse vertigo with dizziness, but the former occurs when a person moves the head in a certain way which causes the sensation.

There are two types of vertigo, peripheral and central vertigo. Peripheral vertigo is a problem in the inner ear that controls balance. These areas are called vestibular labyrinth or semicircular canals. Sometimes, the problems may involve the vestibular nerve. The vestibular nerve is a nerve that connects the inner ear and the brain stem. Peripheral vertigo is caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (also known as BPPV), Meniere disease, irritation or swelling in the inner ear (labyrinthitis), inflammation of the vestibular nerve (neuronitis), injury (ex. head injury), antibiotics that are toxic to the inner ear structures. Central vertigo is caused by a problem in the brain, mostly in the brain stem or the back part of the brain (cerebellum). Central vertigo is caused by blood vessel disease, stroke, seizures (happens rarely), tumors (this can be cancerous or noncancerous), vestibular migraine (a certain type of migraine headache), and certain drugs (ex. Anticonvulsants, aspirin, and alcohol). Vertigo can last for a few seconds, minutes, hours, or days, but vertigo episodes only last for a few seconds or minutes.

As stated before, vertigo is not very common in the 21st century, and most individuals that have these symptoms are ignorant. Each type of vertigo has different signs and symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms of peripheral vertigo are dizziness, loss of hearing in one ear, inability to focus your eyes, nausea or vomiting, sweating, or ringing in the ear. For a person that is experiencing central vertigo, their signs and symptoms are double vision, difficulty swallowing, weak limbs, slurred speeches, inability to focus the eye, and facial paralysis. The signs and symptoms vary for every individual and can sometimes be mild or severe. It is extremely important to go to the doctor if you have a few of these symptoms.

Around the globe, it is estimated that 20% to 56% individuals have experienced vertigo, however, most are ignorant about it. Vertigo is common among the elderly. 70% of people aged 65 and older have experienced vertigo. In the U.S., about 40% of adults have had vertigo at least once in their lifetime.

When one experiences several episodes of vertigo, it is best to stop what he or she is doing and go sit or lie down. If the vertigo episode is severe, you should go to a dark room and lie down. Avoid carrying heavy objects, don’t operate heavy machinery, and try not to drive a vehicle. Don’t eat foods and drink beverages that have caffeine, sodium, nicotine, bread, and pasta, etc. Vestibular vertigo is when the vestibular nerve is being constricted and nicotine is known to contribute to the narrowing of blood vessels. Caffeine can provoke vestibular vertigo and therefore, it is important to control the amount of caffeine intake. Sodium aggravates vertigo and you should not eat soy sauce, popcorn, cheese, pickles, and canned food. Bread and pasta trigger vertigo conditions. When you have vertigo, it is important to be hydrated and eat foods that are filled with a lot of potassium, ginger, tomatoes, vitamins B & C, and magnesium. Lastly, it is extremely important to go to the doctor when you think or know that you have vertigo.

Q: Can vertigo cause death?

A: Yes, vertigo can cause death but is very rare. If the symptoms come in the form of cerebellar hemorrhage, it is considered life-threatening, but can be treated.

Q: Why is vertigo worse in the morning?

A: Vertigo is worse in the morning because when you wake up, there is a sudden change in your body and position which can easily trigger vertigo.

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