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Vertigo is a symptom, rather than a condition itself. Vertigo is a type of dizziness that is often described as feeling that you are spinning or that the world is spinning around you, particularly if you change position. Vertigo affects all ages. In younger patients, middle ear pathology is most often the cause. In the elderly, specific assessment is needed due to the risk of falls and their complications. The key to arriving at the diagnosis is to differentiate vertigo from other causes of dizziness or imbalance and distinguish central from peripheral causes of vertigo.


The cause of vertigo is often unknown.

  • Vertigo is commonly caused by a problem with the way balance works in the inner ear, although it can also be caused by problems in certain parts of the brain.

  • Causes of vertigo include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV); migraines; labyrinthitis; vestibular neuronitis.

  • Aircraft pilots and underwater divers are subject to vertigo because the environments in which they work frequently have no reference points by which to orient their direction of movement. The illusions caused by disorientation can have devastating consequences e.g. a pilot may sense that he is gaining altitude when in reality he is losing it, or he may feel that he is steering to the right when he is on a straight course.


Treatment depends on the cause. In most cases vertigo goes away without treatment. Stress can increase symptoms of dizziness and nausea and reducing stress can help reduce the symptoms.

If symptoms persist treatment options include:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation or balance training: patients may benefit from a type of physical therapy known as vestibular rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is an exercise-based treatment program designed to promote vestibular adaptation and substitution. The goals of VRT are: to enhance gaze stability; to enhance postural stability; to improve vertigo; to improve activities of daily living. VRT facilitates vestibular recovery mechanisms: vestibular adaptation, substitution by the other eye-movement systems, substitution by vision, somatosensory cues, other postural strategies, and habituation. Also, Otago exercise program could benefit patient suffering from vertigo.

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