Vertigo is often described as a feeling of dizziness or feeling as though the world is spinning or tilting. It’s an illusion where despite the fact that it feels as though the person or objects around them are moving, they’re actually not.
It is not a pleasant experience and for some types of vertigo, it can last for quite a while. There many different types of vertigo; some more common than others, some more debilitating than others, and they often have different types of causes – depending on which type you are suffering from.
Firstly, who does vertigo affect?
Vertigo can affect anyone at any age, however it is more common in people over the age of 60, especially women.
BPPV is the most common form of vertigo and accounts for approximately 90% of all vertigo patients. The patient describes the dizziness as though the world is spinning around them. Each episode can last for seconds to minutes and is often precipitated by certain head movements. People commonly describe episodes to occur after rolling over in bed or looking up. BPPV is quite intense and there is often a small delay in experiencing the symptoms, rather than them happening instantly.
BPPV is caused by a blow to the head or a head knock, as well as age. In reference to age, there are crystals embedded within our ears that are stuck together by a sticky gel. As we age however, this gel becomes less sticky, and so the crystals fall off. As our sense of balance and perception of movement is based off of these crystals being in their correct locations, when they fall of, our balance and movement sense becomes distorted. The crystals fall into what is known as the semi-circular canal which contains fluid in it. So, when we move, the crystals in this canal cause movement of the fluid which causes vertigo symptoms to present themselves.
People with cervicogenic vertigo often describe their symptoms to feel as though the world is tilting. It occurs more frequently in people who have had a recent knock to the head, whether it’s from playing a sport or being in a motor vehicle accident. People who have suffered from whiplash are more likely to suffer from cervicogenic vertigo.
It occurs due to an abnormal neural activity from the neck, and so people with cervicogenic vertigo often experience neck pain as well as a headache, or postural imbalances. The episodes can last from minutes to hours and is associated with a change in head position.
Meniere’s disease is a rare type of vertigo and is associated with an issue with the fluid within the ear. It mostly affects people between the ages of 20 to 50 years of age and people often experience ringing in the ear, hearing loss, feeling like their ear is full, and vertigo.
The attacks can last up to 24 hours, but more commonly for a couple of hours.