Vertigo: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Vertigo: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
by Lydia Krause and Dana Robinson

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is dizziness that creates the false sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving. The condition can feel similar to motion sickness, but it’s not the same as lightheadedness.

Types of Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is the most common type of vertigo. It occurs as a result of a problem in the inner ear, or the vestibular nerve, which controls balance.

Central vertigo

Central vertigo occurs as a result of a problem in the brain. It can be caused by a variety of different conditions, including:

  • • brain tumor
  • • infection
  • • migraine
  • • multiple sclerosis
  • • stroke
  • • traumatic brain injury


Common causes for vertigo include: 

  • • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This is the most common cause of vertigo and creates an intense, brief sense that you’re spinning or moving. These episodes are triggered by a rapid change in head movement, such as a blow to the head.
  • • Infection. A viral infection of the vestibular nerve, called vestibular neuritis or Meniere’s disease. When excessive fluid builds up in the inner ear, the result can be sudden episodes of vertigo that last for several hours.
  • • Migraine. Migraine-induced vertigo can last minutes to hours
  • • Head or neck injury. Vertigo is a common symptom after a traumatic injury to the head or neck, especially if there is damage to the vestibular system.
  • • Medications. Certain medications can cause vertigo, along with other symptoms like dizziness, hearing loss, and tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears.

Can stress cause vertigo?

Although stress doesn’t cause vertigo directly, it can worsen it. What’s more, 2016 research suggests that severe stress could increase your risk of stroke, which could potentially cause vertigo.

Symptoms of Vertigo

One of the most common symptoms of vertigo is dizziness, which usually worsens with head movement. It’s typically described by patients as a spinning sensation, with the room or objects around them seeming to move.

Other symptoms of vertigo include:

  • • headache
  • • hearing loss
  • • increased sweating
  • • involuntary eye movements
  • • loss of balance
  • • nausea
  • • ringing or buzzing in your ears
  • • vomiting


Treatment options for vertigo can depend on the underlying cause. To improve symptoms, vestibular rehabilitation therapy as well as medications, such as meclizine (Antivert), have been found to be effective.

Repositioning Maneuvers

Treatment options for vertigo can depend on the underlying cause. To improve symptoms, vestibular rehabilitation therapy as well as medications, such as meclizine (Antivert), have been found to be effective.

Each treatment session involves holding four positions for 30 to 60 seconds each and repeating each position several times, as needed. A healthcare professional can guide you through each movement during the session. They may also provide additional guidance on how to perform this procedure at home.


Meclizine is an antihistamine, which is a class of medication often used to treat allergies. Meclizine is effective in treating motion sickness or vertigo. However, it might lead to confusion or even amnesia in older adults.


There are several exercises used to help alleviate symptoms of vertigo. They typically involve marching in place or holding specific positions to improve balance.

These exercises are similar to the ones used in vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT). VRT involves exercises designed according to each person and their symptoms. After a thorough clinical examination, one of three main methods is applied:

  • • balance training, which improves steadiness
  • • gaze stabilization, which improves control of eye movements so vision can be clear during head movement
  • • habituation, which improves dizziness

However, if you have severe vertigo, it’s best to reach out to an experienced physical therapist for additional guidance, instead of performing these exercises on your own.

Natural remedies

There are several ways to naturally relieve discomfort caused by vertigo. For example, certain supplements can help improve sleep while dealing with vertigo, including ginkgo biloba and melatonin.

Essential oils such as lavender may help stop dizziness and nausea. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there is currently no research available to support the use of essential oils for vertigo.

How long does vertigo last?

The signs and symptoms of BPPV can come and go, with symptoms commonly lasting less than a minute.

In cases of Meniere’s disease, an episode of vertigo can last for longer than 20 minutes. Migraine-induced vertigo can last minutes to hours.

Vertigo in pregnancy

According to a 2020 study, vertigo is the most commonly reported vestibular symptom during the first trimester of pregnancy.

BPPV is particularly common during pregnancy. According to 2017 research, which categorized participants as women and men, BPPV affects women more frequently than men with a ratio of 2-to-1.

Many people also experience dizziness during pregnancy. This could be caused by several factors, including unstable blood sugar levels. During the third trimester, the baby can put pressure on some of the major abdominal veins when the parent lies on their back, which can also cause dizziness.

Is vertigo hereditary?

In some cases, vertigo can be hereditary. Also known as familial benign recurrent vertigo, hereditary vertigo is a form of migrainous vertigo because it’s strongly associated with migraine attacks.


Vertigo can be caused by many factors, including infections, migraines, injuries, and several other health conditions.

Treating the underlying cause of your vertigo is the most effective way to decrease discomfort and provide long-term relief. There are also many home remedies, exercises, and medications that may be beneficial.

If you experience vertigo, it’s best to talk with a doctor to determine the cause and find a treatment plan that works for you. 



Download the full issue of the November-December 2023 Healthy Options News Digest here. 

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