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So what is the cause of vertigo? Vertigo is defined as a feeling of the world spinning around you, or of you spinning in the world, while being absolutely stationary. It is a subtype of dizziness. But it is distinct from lightheadedness.
There are two types of vertigo, peripheral and central. Both have different causes. You can also see the video or read below.
Peripheral causes of vertigo
Peripheral vertigo is the most common type of vertigo. It is usually due to an inner ear etiology (e.g. semicircular canal debris, Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular nerve dysfunction, Meniere disease).
Semicircular canal debris
This is usually due to accumulation of debris from an imbalance in the endolymphatic fluid ion concentrations. Exact mechanism is not yet known.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is a type where the small stones called otoconia are formed. These otoconia usually reside in the posterior semicircular canal and utricle in the inner ear. The otoconia move with movement and hence can cause stimulation of semicircular canal balance sensing hair. These inner ear hairs are our natural balance detection mechanism. This can lead to a feeling of spinning around while stationary. This is the same feeling you get when you actually spin around.
BPPV is easily diagnosed with the Dix Hall pike maneuver by your physician. See the video below.
Your doctor may then attempt to cure BPPV with an Epley’s maneuver. See below video.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown. But it is usually considered to be caused by an abundance of endolymphatic fluid but exact cause is unknown.. Meniere disease usually affects only one ear. The symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Meniere’s disease is characterized by a triad of sensorineural hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus. Meniere’s disease can cause hearing loss so it is best to see a doctor early. Learn more here.
Vestibular nerve infection
Vestibular nerve may get infected by a variety of middle ear and blood stream infections. It is usually associated with other symptoms as well. Visit to a doctor as urgently as possible.
Central causes of Vertigo
Central vertigo is usually due to a brain stem or cerebellar lesion most commonly a stroke affecting vestibular nuclei in the brain stem or a posterior fossa tumor.
It is distinct from peripheral vertigo as it also includes focal neurological findings. It will also have directional or purely vertical nystagmus, skew deviation, diplopia and dysmetria (i.e. rapid movement of eyes). Read more about Eye conditions linked to vertigo.
Summary – What is the cause of vertigo ?
In short it could be a multitude of things. It usually requires a checkup with your doctor. Self diagnosis is dangerous as it could be due to certain very severe conditions. Learn more ENT conditions here.