When vertigo spins out of control

As children, many of us would get thrills out of spinning games that left us dizzy and tumbling onto the ground. The feeling of losing control as the world whizzed around you was fun.

As adults, however, feelings of dizziness or vertigo are not so enjoyable. We understand that losing our equilibrium without warning is a sign that something is not quite right.

Mostly, the problem stems from an imbalance in the inner ear. Unlike fainting, having vertigo will not lead to a blackout.

But the feeling that you are about to pass out is similar to an episode of vertigo. Known medically as syncope, the onset of fainting is caused by too little oxygen reaching the brain because of a sudden fall in blood pressure.

Vertigo, on the other hand, is caused by a problem deep inside your ear that disrupts your ability to stay balanced on your feet. The dizziness is usually accompanied by ringing in the ears, nausea, sweating and sometimes a headache.

According to Government site healthdirect.gov.au, the most common cause of vertigo is “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)”.

“BPPV occurs when tiny calcium particles clump together in the part of the inner ear that helps control our balance, affecting the messages sent from your inner ear to your brain.

“Other causes of vertigo include head injuries, stroke, circulation problems, infections, inner ear disorders, and the degeneration of inner ear structures.”

Inner ear problems can arise from:

  • Meniere’s disease: abnormal build-up of fluid in the inner ear, affecting the cells responsible for balance and hearing
  • vestibular neuritis: swelling or infection of the nerve supplying a bone in the inner ear
  • labyrinthitis: swelling or infection of the inner ear.

For advice on when to seek medical attention for feelings of vertigo, visit healthdirect’s symptom checker. If you suffer from dizziness, you can access support from Whirled Foundation on 1300 368 818 or visit Menieres.org and Vestibular Disorders Association.

Have you ever experienced vertigo severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day living? What caused it and what treatment did you receive? Do you have any tips on how to cope with dizziness?

Related articles:
Dizzy spells and dementia
Dealing with dizziness
The facts on vertigo

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Olga Galacho


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