Causes of vertigo

Causes of vertigo? Vertigo can be caused by problems in the brain or central nervous system (central vertigo) or the inner ear (peripheral vertigo). Vertigo is a symptom of other conditions and is not in itself contagious.

There are a number of different causes of vertigo. Vertigo can be defined based upon whether the cause is peripheral or central. Central causes of vertigo arise in the brain or spinal cord while peripheral vertigo is due to a problem within the inner ear. The inner ear can become inflamed because of illness, or small crystals or stones found normally within the inner ear can become displaced and cause irritation to the small hair cells within the semicircular canals, leading to vertigo. This is known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

Vertigo may also be caused by inflammation within the inner ear (labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis), which is characterized by the sudden onset of vertigo and may be associated with hearing loss. The most common cause of labyrinthitis is a viral or bacterial inner ear infection. The duration of symptoms can last for days until the inflammation subsides. Viruses that may cause labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis include herpes viruses, influenza, measles, rubella, mumps, polio, hepatitis, and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Causes of vertigo

Meniere’s disease, vertigo associated with hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear), is caused by fluid buildup within the inner ear; the cause of this fluid accumulation is unknown. Head injuries may lead to damage to the inner ear and be a cause of vertigo. Infrequently, strokes affecting certain areas of the brain, multiple sclerosis, or tumors may lead to an onset of vertigo. Some patients with a type of migraine headache called basilar artery migraine may develop vertigo as a symptom.

 

Vertigo can be caused by decreased blood flow to the base of the brain. A blood clot or blockage in a blood vessel in the back of the brain can cause a stroke (cerebral vascular accident or CVA). Another type of stroke consisting of bleeding into the back of the brain (cerebellar hemorrhage) is characterized by vertigo, headache, difficulty walking, and inability to look toward the side of the bleed. The result is that the person’s eyes gaze away from the side with the problem. Walking is also extremely impaired.

Vertigo is often the presenting symptom in multiple sclerosis. The onset is usually abrupt, and examination of the eyes may reveal the inability of the eyes to move past the midline toward the nose.

Head trauma and neck injury may also result in vertigo, which usually goes away on its own. Cervical vertigo can be caused by neck problems such as impingement of blood vessels or nerves from neck injuries.

Migraine, a severe form of headache, may also cause vertigo. The vertigo is usually followed by a headache, although not always. There is often a prior history of similar episodes but no lasting problems.

Complications from diabetes can cause arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to lowered blood flow to the brain, causing vertigo symptoms.

Changes in hormones during pregnancy along with low blood sugar levels can cause pregnant women to feel dizziness or vertigo, especially during the first trimester. In the second trimester, dizziness or vertigo may be due to pressure on blood vessels from the expanding uterus. Later in pregnancy dizziness and vertigo may be caused by lying on the back, which allows the weight of the baby to press on a large vein (vena cava) that carries blood to the heart.

Anxiety or panic attacks may also cause people to feel the sensation of vertigo. Stress may worsen symptoms, though it usually does not cause them.

Types

There are different types of vertigo, depending on the cause.

Peripheral vertigo usually occurs when there is a disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear.

Central vertigo occurs as the result of a disturbance in one or more parts of the brain, known as sensory nerve pathways.

Peripheral vertigo

This type of vertigo is typically linked to the inner ear.

The labyrinth of the inner ear has tiny organs that enable messages to be sent to the brain in response to gravity.

These messages tell the brain when there is movement from the vertical position. This is what enables people to keep their balance when they stand up.

Disturbance to this system produces vertigo.

This can happen because of a source of inflammation, often due to a viral infection.

Various conditions are associated with peripheral vertigo.

Central vertigo

Central vertigo is linked to problems with the central nervous system.

It usually involves a disturbance in one of the following areas:

the brainstem

the cerebellum

These parts of the brain deal with the interaction between a person’s perception of vision and balance.

 

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