Vertigo refers to the sensation of movement when there is actually no movement present. Often a feeling of spinning, rocking or falling occurs. Abnormalities of the inner ear are a common cause of vertigo.
Evaluation of this symptom can be complex, but abnormalities of the inner ear are often the source of the symptoms. The following is a list of the more common inner ear conditions that affect balance and can cause dizziness.
Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV) is the most common inner ear disorder and occurs when the calcium carbonate crystals normally located on receptors that perceive the pull of gravity get loose and find their way into the inner ear balance canals that sense motion. When the head changes position (laying down, looking up, etc.), the crystals then move sending a false message to the brain that there is movement. This results in a spinning sensation that can be quite intense but is short lived.
Ménière’s Disease is a common inner ear condition that occurs when too much fluid builds up inside your inner ear. This excess fluid causes the symptoms of Meniere’s disease that include episodes of vertigo and fluctuating hearing loss, pressure in the ear and tinnitus.
The cause of Ménière’s Disease is unknown; attacks can vary in intensity and frequency but can be quite severe.
Vestibular Neuritis refers to a disorder in which the balance (vestibular) nerve becomes swollen, which results in vertigo without the other ear-related symptoms. Vertigo can be long-lasting but usually clears in time.
Vestibular migraines are a type of migraine that produces sudden symptoms of vertigo but doesn’t always produce the same intense headaches associated with typical migraines. While the cause is unknown, these migraines more often affect people who have had a history of migraine headaches previously.
An Acoustic Neuroma, the least likely cause of vertigo, is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that grows on the vestibular nerve, the nerve that connects your inner ear to your brain. These tumors are slow growing, but they can create pressure on the vestibular nerve which can cause symptoms of vertigo. They can also cause hearing loss, tinnitus, numbness and, in rare cases, paralysis of the facial nerve.
Treatment options for vertigo are dependent upon the cause and symptoms. These may include one or a combination of medications, therapies and surgeries.