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  • What Is Vertigo Like? The World Is Spinning Literally

    One sufferer says it can be so bad that she to lie down because she lost her balance.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
What Is Vertigo Like? The World Is Spinning Literally
PHOTO BY Shutterstock
  • “I thought I was having a heart attack.” This was what Mommy D told a friend when she got up from bed early one morning, and her world started spinning. She described the spinning as ‘really fast’ like a roller coaster.

    “I felt the same thing, too,” shared Mommy M. She was getting up from her downward dog at yoga class, and the whole room began to spin. Then, finally, she had to lie down because she has lost all her balance.

    Needless to say, both moms ended up in the emergency room of a hospital, especially after throwing up. They felt particularly nauseous when they tried to get up or open their eyes. Both were told by the doctor that they had an episode of vertigo.

    What is vertigo?

    According to Medline Plus, vertigo is a sensation of motion or spinning that is often described as dizziness. “It is not the same as being lightheaded. People with vertigo feel they are spinning or moving, or that the world is spinning around them,” the site added.

    What causes vertigo? According to WebMD, vertigo is a symptom of a medical condition and not a disease by itself. What are the causes of vertigo?

    Causes of peripheral vertigo

    Peripheral is the most common type of vertigo due to a problem in the inner ear that controls balance.

    “These areas are called the vestibular labyrinth, or semicircular canals. The problem may also involve the vestibular nerve. This is the nerve between the inner ear and the brain stem.”


    Here are problems in the inner ear that may lead to peripheral vertigo:

    Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

    This is one of the most common causes of vertigo, where the person suddenly gets the sensation that they are spinning or that there is spinning happening inside the head. This is most likely what Mommy D and Mommy M experienced.

    This condition occurs when tiny calcium particles called canaliths are dislodged from their normal position and gather in the inner ear. This results in the brain getting inaccurate information about a person’s position, and spinning and dizziness occur. BPPV may be associated with age.

    Vestibular neuronitis

    This is an inflammation of the vestibular nerve caused by an infection, usually a virus. Apart from causing vertigo, it may also be accompanied by blurred vision, severe nausea, and balance loss.


    This condition refers to irritation and swelling of the inner ear. Viral infections such a cold or flu are the most common causes. Still, more serious causes may be a bacterial infection in the middle ear, often referred to as otitis media.

    Meniere’s disease

    This inner ear disorder is thought to be caused by a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in the ear. As a result, episodes of vertigo may happen along with ringing in the ears or tinnitus and, more seriously, hearing loss.


    According to Medline Plus, medication such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, cisplatin, diuretics, or salicylates, can be toxic to the inner ear structures and cause vertigo.

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    Causes of central vertigo

    Central vertigo is caused by a problem in the brain, “usually in the brain stem or the back part of the brain (cerebellum).” According to WebMD, this type may come without warning and may last for long periods.

    “The episodes are generally much more intense than peripheral, and you may be unable to stand or walk without help.” Those that fall under this type include:

    Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA)

    This occurs when the blood supply to the brain is reduced and prevents the brain tissues from getting oxygen and nutrients. For example, a stroke is often caused by a blood clot or blockage in the blood supply to the brain.

    If a stroke happens in areas that control balance, such as the cerebellum or brainstem, it may result in vertigo. TIAs are usually mild and don’t cause permanent damage like strokes but may also cause dizziness.


    This headache can cause severe pain, usually on one side of the head. In addition, people with migraines may get auras such as spots of light, flashing lights, or wavy lines in their field of vision. Often, it is this type of migraine that is accompanied by dizziness and vertigo.

    Multiple Sclerosis

    This chronic disease affects the central nervous system, particularly the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It involves a wide range of symptoms, one of which is vertigo.


    This includes those that are cancerous or non-cancerous. For example, one report shows that intracranial tumors such as meningiomas, vestibular schwannoma, glioma, and lipoma may mimic BPPV.


    If your vertigo is prolonged, it is best to consult with your doctor.  There may be a serious underlying disease or problem that needs to be treated to get to the root of what’s causing vertigo.

    What other parents are reading

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