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Vertigo is a sensation of motion — a feeling that you are spinning or moving while standing still or that the world is spinning around you. Some people describe vertigo as a feeling of dizziness.

Other vertigo symptoms that accompany the spinning sensation can include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty focusing or moving the eyes
  • Hearing loss in one ear
  • Loss of balance or falling
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Double vision
  • Facial paralysis
  • Slurred speech
  • Arm or leg weakness

Vertigo: what you should know

  • Peripheral vertigo can involve either the part of the inner ear that controls balance, or the vestibular nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brainstem. Causes can include the following:
    • A small piece of calcium in the fluid of your inner ear (benign positional vertigo)
    • Certain medicines
    • Head injury
    • Inflammation of the vestibular nerve (neuronitis)
    • Swelling of the inner ear (labyrinthitis)
    • High pressure in the inner-ear fluid (Meniere’s disease)
    • Pressure on the vestibular nerve, usually from a noncancerous tumor (such as a meningioma or schwannoma)
  • Central vertigo is the result of a problem in the brain, usually in the brainstem or the cerebellum. Causes can include the following:
    • Blood vessel disease
    • Drugs such as anticonvulsants, aspirin and alcohol
    • Migraine
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Seizures (although this is rare)
    • Stroke
    • Tumors (usually noncancerous)

How can I get help for vertigo?

See your primary care doctor if you have symptoms of vertigo. If vertigo is suspected, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Tests of your brain waves
  • Warming and cooling your inner ear (caloric stimulation)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Measurement of your eye movements (electronystagmography)
  • CT scan of your head
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your head and magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) scan of blood vessels in the brain