Vertigo is a sensation of everything moving even when a person is standing still. People with vertigo feel dizzy, as though they are swaying, turning, or spinning. The condition can cause loss of balance and is often the result of problems with the vestibular system — the inner ear, visual system, and parts of the brain — which is responsible for balance and eye movement. The most common vertigo disorder is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which is caused by tiny calcium particles in the inner ear becoming loose.
A telling sign of vertigo is a sense that the world around is spinning. It may feel like everything is tilted. Distorted balance makes it difficult to walk or even stand. A feeling of imbalance creates the sensation of being pulled in a particular direction. Stumbling, poor coordination, and trouble maintaining a straight posture are also symptoms.
Many people with migraines experience problems with vertigo. Some people with headache disorders can develop vertigo even when they are not experiencing pain. Migraine headaches can result in dizziness that causes one to feel unsteady. The underlying cause is a combination of an altered blood vessel and neural processes that affect the vestibular area. There are many similarities between migraines and vertigo. Some of the food and environmental triggers that cause migraines also can trigger dizziness. Spinning problems along with a headache may be mistaken for vision issues; however, they're primarily related to the inner ear.
Vertigo episodes are often associated with a loud ringing in the ears called tinnitus. It is common for a person with vertigo to hear a constant abnormal noise such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, clicking, or whistling. The frequency can vary, and the pitch ranges from a high shriek to a low growl.
Vertigo can cause an individual to break into a sweat when dizzy. The symptom tends to most affect the neck, chest, and forehead, and changes in head position may make it worse. Often, this symptom is due to the anxiety the person feels when in the midst of vertigo. Sudden drops in blood pressure can also be to blame for unexpected sweating.
Vertigo involves the inner ear and parts of the brain. However, it also interferes with the sensory system; the eyes observe the environment and help maintain balance. A rapid, involuntary movement of the eyes, nystagmus, can happen during a vertigo event. However, nystagmus from vertigo typically resolves when the episode ends.
Hyperventilation from anxiety and panic attacks can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea that mimics vertigo. However, vertigo cna also cause panic attacks. These attacks can be quite draining and usually last for 20 or 30 minutes. Some panic attacks are mistaken for a stroke during the experience. While they may be sporadic, the fear of experiencing another one can lead to anxiety and social isolation.
Nausea may occur because of the imbalance between the visual sensation and the body's perception of movement. Lightheadedness due to other causes can also result in nausea, even advancing to vomiting. One of the causes of vertigo, vestibular neuritis, often leads to severe dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Fatigue is the feeling of exhaustion that typically results from exertion or illness. Although the connection is not well-documented or studied, fatigue may be associated with vertigo and can occur during or after an attack. People who experience the unbalanced feeling caused by vertigo may feel physically exhausted. Anticipating the next attack can also lead to stress and fatigue.
Vertigo may be secondary to Meniere's disease and can be associated with progressive hearing loss that affects one ear. Some people experience distorted or reduced hearing or become sensitive to loud noises. Others develop tinnitus, a sensation of ringing, roaring, or buzzing in the ears. Rarely, the condition can lead to complete hearing loss in the affected ear.
A significant build-up of fluid in the inner ear can alter the pressure in the compartment, causing a sensation of fullness in the ear or side of the face. The ear may become sensitive to changing pressures, similar to the feeling you get when on an airplane. This sensation of fullness in the ear is a symptom of Meniere's disease but has other causes as well.
Vertigo doesn't just affect physical balance; it can also lead to mental disorientation or confusion, which is often associated with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and imbalance. Those experiencing vertigo might find it challenging to concentrate or fully understand their surroundings. This cognitive fog makes it hard to perform daily activities, contributing to a feeling of helplessness or distress. The brain's struggle to reconcile conflicting signals from the inner ear and eyes can lead to this disorientation, impacting an individual's ability to think clearly or react appropriately.
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