Causes of Vertigo

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is a condition that involves dizziness due to disorders in the inner ear. Here are some causes of vertigo.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
The very word 'vertigo' brings to mind that famous 1958 movie of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock, wherein the character played by James Stewart, a detective named John 'Scottie' Ferguson, is struck by an extreme fear of heights, which results in vertigo, which is a type of dizziness. This condition is a symptom and not a disease by itself and can have several causes. When a person experiences it, the sensation is of the outer surroundings spinning around him or her, or as if the person feels he or she is spinning in space. This type of dizziness occurs all of a sudden, can come and go unpredictably, and is usually accompanied by equilibrium problems, nausea, and vomiting. Mild occurrences may be just a feeling of light-headedness or a rocking sensation. In this article, some of the causes of vertigo are highlighted.


Vertigo generally results due to a disorder of the nerves and the balance mechanism structures in the inner year, known as the vestibular system, which can sense the position of the head and movement of the body. This condition is almost always accompanied by involuntary movements of the eyes, also known as nystagmus. Sitting up suddenly or moving about can worsen the condition.


Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV pertains to brief and intense occurrences linked with the changes in the position of the head. It often happens when people sit up in bed on waking up in the morning or when they turn over while lying in bed. It takes place when the otoconia, or crystals of calcium carbonate that occur naturally in the inner ear come loose and get into the wrong areas of the canals in the inner ear. When the particles of calcium shift, they result in stimulating the sensors in the ear, thus causing an episode of vertigo. Medical science still does not know why BPPV is caused, although the conjecture is that it could be caused by aging. BPPV could also be triggered by a trauma to the head.

Meniere's Disease

This condition involves fluid building up excessively in the inner ear. Typically, there are sudden attacks of vertigo, which can last for half an hour or even longer. Apart from the dizziness, some of the other symptoms are: a feeling of fullness in the ear; tinnitus, or a ringing or buzzing in the ear; and hearing loss that comes and goes. It is not know yet what exactly causes Meniere's disease.

Vestibular Migraine

Those who are afflicted with this condition are extremely sensitive to movement. The vertigo that results from vestibular migraine can be set off in various ways, such as: riding or driving in an automobile; being in a place that is confusing or crowded; if the head is turned quickly; or even by watching movement on the television screen. A vestibular migraine can cause sensations like: tinnitus; hearing that seems muffled; hearing loss; or unsteadiness or imbalance. In most people afflicted with this condition, the vertigo and the headache do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Rather, some of the triggers that usually result in an attack of migraine may actually cause vertigo, instead of the headache. These episodes may last for just a few minutes or even several days.

Inner Ear Inflammation

The symptoms of inner ear inflammation, also known as labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis, are intense and sudden vertigo, which can last for several days, accompanied by nausea as well as vomiting. This condition can be disabling, necessitating bed rest in order to lessen the symptoms. Luckily, this type usually abates and clears up by itself. Although it is not know yet what causes this condition, it is suspected that it could be due to a viral infection.

Schwannoma or Acoustic Neuroma

This is a benign tumor that occurs on the acoustic nerve. The inner ear is connected to the brain through the acoustic nerve. An acoustic neuroma can cause dizziness, tinnitus, loss of hearing, and loss of balance.

Some of the other causes could be serious neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis, brain hemorrhage, or stroke. Sometimes, it can even be triggered off by rapid changes in motion such as rides in roller coasters, airplanes, cars, and boats.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.