Dizziness, Vertigo, and Imbalance – Causes

The type of symptoms, whether it is dizziness, vertigo or imbalance, often helps determine the type of problem you have.

Vertigo

Vertigo usually results from a problem with the nerves and the structures of the balance mechanism in your inner ear (vestibular system), which sense movement and changes in your head position. Sitting up or moving around may make it worse. Sometimes vertigo is severe enough to cause nausea, vomiting and imbalance.

Causes of vertigo may include:

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV causes intense, brief episodes of vertigo immediately following a change in the position of your head, often when you turn over in bed or sit up in the morning. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo.

Inflammation in the inner ear

Signs and symptoms of inflammation of your inner ear (acute vestibular neuritis) include the spontaneous onset of intense, constant vertigo that may persist for several days, along with nausea, vomiting and imbalance. It can be incapacitating, requiring bed rest. When associated with sudden hearing loss, this condition is referred to as labyrinthitis. Fortunately, vestibular neuritis generally subsides and clears up on its own.

Meniere’s disease

This disease involves the excessive buildup of fluid in your inner ear. It is an uncommon condition that may affect adults at any age and is characterized by sudden episodes of vertigo lasting 30 minutes to several hours and hearing loss.

Migrainous vertigo

Migraine is more than a headache disorder. Just as some people experience a visual “aura” with their migraines, others can get vertigo episodes and have other types of dizziness between migraines.

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma) is a noncancerous (benign) growth on the vestibular nerve, which connects the inner ear to your brain. Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma generally include progressive hearing loss and tinnitus on one side accompanied by dizziness or imbalance.

Other causes

Rarely, vertigo can be a symptom of a more serious neurological problem such as a stroke, brain hemorrhage or multiple sclerosis. In such cases, other neurological symptoms are usually present, such as double vision, slurred speech, facial weakness or numbness, limb coordination, or severe balance problems.

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