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Health and Fitness News

As the World Turns

Here's what you need to know about vertigo.

As a child, you could play on the merry-go-round or spin in circles for hours and hours. The dizzy feeling you got afterward was fun for a few minutes until it went away. But imagine feeling that sense of rocking and spinning for no reason and it lasting for minutes, hours, or days before subsiding. This is what happens to people who suffer from vertigo.

Keep reading to learn what it's like to have vertigo, what might cause it, and how it's best treated.

An Unbalanced Life

Sometimes vertigo comes out of nowhere while you're sitting still. Other times you stand up too fast or move your head and all of a sudden you feel like everything is spinning or swaying. When you try to walk, you feel pulled to one side or like you're going to fall over. While similar, vertigo creates a different sensation from just feeling dizzy or lightheaded. For some folks, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating, strange eye movements, ringing in the ears, or hearing loss accompany vertigo.

Blame Your Inner Ear

Most cases of vertigo can be traced to problems in the ear. It's the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear that help your body and brain decide your position in space and keep you balanced. When infection causes inflammation in the inner ear, there's fluid build-up due to Meniere's disease, or small calcium crystals become dislodged from the inner ear and irritate the hair cells, you may experience vertigo.

Vertigo can also be the result of an injury to the head or neck; stroke; tumor; migraine headache; multiple sclerosis; alcohol consumption; or certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, depression, or seizures.

Make It Go Away

Trying to lead a normal life with vertigo is difficult. During a vertigo spell it's hard to walk and you can't focus. So what can you do to regain balance and make the spinning stop?

Treatment will depend on what's causing the vertigo. Many times, your episode of vertigo will eventually go away on its own as your brain adjusts to a new normal. Medications are available to reduce your symptoms, but should only be used short-term. The medications available presently may help temporarily, but they come with side effects and offer only symptomatic vertigo relief—not cure.

If your condition is caused by inner ear problems, talk to your doctor about repositioning movements. With this type of treatment, an experienced healthcare professional moves your head and body in specific ways to reposition the crystals in your inner ear responsible for your vertigo. The movements are safe and have a high success rate.

Other head movements and physical therapies can be performed on a regular basis to lessen the sensitivity of the inner ear nerves. If vertigo is caused by an infection, antibiotics may be necessary. Extra fluid in the ear due to Meniere's disease can be treated with water pills known as diuretics.

As a last resort, surgery may be required to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of vertigo.

Lower Your Risk

Vertigo sound miserable? It is. Thankfully, you can lessen your chances of developing the condition by keeping your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels under control. If you have Meniere's disease, consuming less sodium may help prevent recurrences. Those who deal with vertigo related to inner-ear problems should learn how to perform the head exercises and then do them on a regular basis.