Vertigo (or Spinning Sensation): What it is, Disorders it May Indicate, and What to do About It
If you've ever felt like the room was spinning or like you
needed to reach out to steady yourself when you stood up,
you've experienced dizziness. Vertigo, or dizziness that makes
it feel like your surroundings are spinning, is a symptom,
not a disease itself.
More than 40 percent of Americans have experienced
dizziness that's so severe they saw a doctor for help.
Feeling dizzy is not unusual, and over 40 percent of Americans
have visited a doctor because they experienced vertigo, according
to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
What Causes Dizziness?
Numerous conditions can result in dizziness. Among them:
The most common form of vertigo, benign paroxysmal positional
vertigo (BPPV), however, is usually caused by a problem with
the balance mechanism in your inner ear that senses movement
and changes in the position of your head. BPPV is much more
common as you age, though may also be caused by a head injury.
Is Vertigo Serious, and How is it Treated?
It's uncommon for dizziness to signal a serious illness,
according to the Mayo Clinic, however dizziness along with
a severe headache, double vision, speech or hearing difficulties,
trouble walking, chest pain or numbness can indicate a serious
Most often, though, vertigo is more of a nuisance than a
serious threat. The exception here is if the sensation is
so severe that it causes you to lose
your balance and fall, or stops you from participating
in your normal daily routine. Dizziness can also be dangerous
while you're driving.
Though dizziness often goes away on its own, a series of
movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure is
often used to treat people with BPPV. A doctor can do the
procedure, which consists of maneuvering your head into several
simple positions to move particles from your inner ear into
a bag-like structure called a utricle, where they won't cause
you to feel dizzy.
If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down immediately, and
when you get up, do so slowly.
The canalith repositioning procedure is said to have a 90
percent to 95 percent success rate among BPPV patients.
Meanwhile, dizziness that results from inner ear conditions
can often be remedied by similar balance retraining exercises
for your head and body, which you can learn from a physical
or occupational therapist and do in your own home.
If You Get Dizzy Often ...
There are steps you can take to lessen your symptoms and
protect yourself during dizziness episodes.
If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down right away.
Don't drive a car or use dangerous machinery while you're
Since you may lose your balance when you're dizzy, consider
using protective gates near stairways like the portable
Turn on lights if you get up during the night.
If necessary, use a cane to help keep your balance.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, which may worsen
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