What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by a number of conditions. It is a very specific form of dizziness in which the person feels as though the room is spinning around them. It can arise when there is an issue with the brain, ear or sensory nerve pathway. You often hear people associating vertigo with a fear of heights but this is not medically correct. The correct term for a fear of heights is Acrophobia.

Vertigo can occur at any time but it usually happens after the age of 65 and can be temporary or long term.



Someone who is suffering from vertigo will feel that they or their surroundings are rotating or spinning when there is no actual movement occurring. The following symptoms are often associated with vertigo :

  • Light-headedness and issues with balance
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • A feeling of motion sickness
  • Tinnitus



Causes can depend on the type of vertigo. There are two main types, Peripheral and central vertigo.

  • Peripheral Vertigo – This happens when there is a problem with the balance organs of the inner ear. Usually this will be caused by an inflammation or viral infection. It can also come on following ear surgery, a heady injury, prolonged bed rest, labyrinthitis and vertebrobasilar. Other causes include a positional vertigo (‘BPPV’) or Meniere’s disease.
  • Central Vertigo – This happens when there are problems with the sensory nerve pathways of the brain. Migraine headaches are the most common cause. Less common causes are brain tumours, strokes, multiple sclerosis, transient ischemic attacks and acoustic neuroma.



Some cases of vertigo can resolve in time without any form of treatment needed. However, if there is an underlying issue, I.e. a bacterial infection, then this will need to be addressed. There are drugs that can relieve the symptoms of vertigo, for example anti-emetics to reduce nausea and motion sickness. The treatment will largely depend on the cause. Antibiotics or steroids may also be prescribed. If the vertigo does not improve within 2 weeks, it would be worth getting a referral to an ENT specialist for further investigation.