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Vertigo and dizziness: Are they the same or different?

What you need to know:

Those who suffer from vertigo can vouch for how unpleasant it is, while those who are yet to experience it struggle to comprehend the difference between vertigo and dizziness – or even if they are one in the same.

According to the experts at House Call Doctor, dizziness itself if often a symptom of other conditions, which is why it can be difficult to determine a specific cause or reason. With the help of after-hours doctors Brisbane, we have compiled a go-to guide on vertigo and dizziness.

What is vertigo?

Put simply, vertigo is a sense of movement, often spinning, swaying or tilting. The phenomena is often experienced when a person is laying, sitting or standing still. After-hours doctors say that vertigo is just a technical term for what people call dizziness. Dizziness is usually described as the feeling that either you are moving or the world around you is moving when you are standing still, especially in the moments that follow any movement.

However, according to home doctors Brisbane, true dizziness is the result of an intense on-set of vertigo where the patient feels lightheaded and faint.

What are the different types of vertigo?

Vertigo can be classified into two types, peripheral or central vertigo.

Peripheral vertigo draws a connection to the inner ear and is usually caused when there is a disturbance in the organs located inside. The organs are found deep in the inner ear and respond to the movement of the body and gravity. The response is transmitted to the brain and alerts the brain of any movement, causing a disturbance in the system, which results in vertigo.

Central vertigo involves a disturbance along the central nervous system – either the brainstem or cerebellum. These areas of the brain are responsible for human interactions with vision and balance.

Vertigo can also be classified into three more additional forms. These include:

Objective: The feeling of the world around someone spinning when they are sitting still.

Subjective: The feeling of movement despite being stationary.

Pseudovertigo: This is the feeling of a rotation inside someone’s head.

What is the cause of vertigo?

Vertigo can be cause by a disturbance in the inner ear or along the central nervous system. However, there are conditions known to cause different types of vertigo. These include:

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): Caused by the delocalisation of debris in the inner ear, the condition causes short yet frequent onsets of vertigo due to the confused signals that the brain receives from the debris interactions with the hairs inside the ear canal.

Labyrinthitis: The inner ear labyrinth is home to the vestibulocochlear nerve which is responsible for encoding the motion of the body, its position and sounds in the surrounding area. However, this condition is the inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth which causes unusual pressure to be applied to the nerve, causing bursts of vertigo. Home doctors say that this type of vertigo is most common with viral infections.

Cholesteatoma: This is a growth of skin in the inner ear which can cause inflammation and infections if the growth is repeated and becomes larger. The resultant growth and infection can damage the ear and result in dizziness and loss of hearing.

Meniere’s disease: Caused by a build-up of fluid in the inner ear, it often leads to bouts of dizziness and often times a resultant ringing sound and loss of hearing. After hours doctors are in dispute about the causes as it could be caused by blood vessel constriction, viral infections or autoimmune diseases, though none of these have been confirmed.

Vestibular neuronitis: This is believed to be caused by the inflammation of the vestibular nerve due to a viral infection.

Vertigo onsets can also be related to or caused by:

  • Migraines and/or headaches
  • Head injuries and/or trauma
  • Otosclerosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Ear surgery
  • Strokes
  • Syphilis.

Available treatments for vertigo:

There are several treatments for vertigo that depend on the severity of the attacks, which include:

Vestibular rehabilitation (or balance training): This treatment is mainly effective for people who suffer from vertigo due to inner ear problems. The aim is to strengthen the vestibular system and improve a person’s sense of balance.

Canalith repositioning measures: The treatment is especially helpful for those with vertigo caused by BPPV. It works by removing crystals and debris from the inner ear canal so that they can be absorbed back into the body. This is achieved by the specifically designed physically exercises.

Medication: Vertigo is commonly associated with motion sickness and migraines. According to home doctor Brisbane, medication for both respective conditions can help to ease the effects of an onset of vertigo.

Surgery: Although it is quite rare, surgery can be conducted on the inner ear or central nervous system to relieve the symptoms of vertigo. However, this is only used in extreme cases induced by head and neck trauma or tumours.

At home treatment: The Epley Manoeuvre is particularly help for at home treatment.

  1. Sit still on your bed and turn your head slightly to the left (though not as far as your shoulder). Then, place a pillow underneath you so as you lie down the pillow is resting between your shoulders instead of under your head as it normally would.
  2. Quickly lie on your back while your head is on the bed (still slightly facing your left) and wait 30 seconds, or for the dizziness to go down.
  3. Then, turn your head to the right without raising or lowering it and wait another 30 seconds.
  4. Turn your head and body to the right and look at the floor for 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly sit back up and remain sitting for a few minutes.

  For treatment of vertigo originating from the right side of your body, reverse all steps.

Are there any precautions to take for vertigo?

Steer clear of ladder use if you are prone to vertigo. Making adaptations around the house to help prevent falls can also assist in reducing dizziness. On top of this, trying to get up from a chair with less haste will help reduce the chance of dizziness, according to home doctors.

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