What is vertigo?
Vertigo is a symptom of a condition, rather than a condition itself. It’s a sensation where you may fell off-balance, dizzy, or that you or everything around you is moving which may make it difficult to stand or walk. Other symptoms associated with vertigo include feeling nauseous and being sick. An attack of vertigo may range from a few seconds to a few hours, with more severe vertigo lasting for up to several days. As well as time, vertigo also ranges in severity from mild, which may be barely noticeable, to severe, which may make normal life quite difficult.
What causes vertigo?
The most common causes of vertigo tend to be infections/conditions affecting the inner ear including:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – whereby movements of the head may cause vertigo
- Ménière’s disease – inner ear disorder causing vertigo, ringing ears (tinnitus) and possibly hearing loss
- Vestibular neuronitis – vestibular nerve infection within inner ear which may affect sense of balance.
- Labyrinthitis – another infection of an inner ear structure which controls balance and hearing.
Other causes include:
- Head injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain tumours
- Certain medications – may be a side-effect. You can speak with your Pharmacist/GP if you have concerns regarding side-effects of your medication.
What you can do to help ease vertigo?
The following may help ease your vertigo symptoms while reducing the number of attacks you experience:
- If you feel dizzy sit down as soon as possible
- Lie down in a dark room – this may help reduce the spinning sensation
- During daily activities try to avoid any jerking movements with your head – move it slowly
- Sleep with your head raised – use two pillows
- When getting out of bed – sit on the edge of the bed and dont stand up to quickly
When should you see your GP/seek medical care?
Any person experiencing signs and symptoms should be evaluated by their GP. Although vertigo is not usually serious your GP may assess your symptoms to rule out any serious or life-threatening conditions, although these are rare.
There are certain circumstances when you should go straight to A&E, rather than wait for an appointment with your GP, if you experience vertigo along with any of the following:
- Severe headache
- Weakness in the arms and legs
- Difficulties with speech
- Double vision
The majority of vertigo cases tend to resolve within a few days without intervention. If your doctor decides you need treatment, that choice will depend on your diagnosis:
- If caused by an infection of the inner ear you may require antibiotics
- If a hole in the inner ear is causing recurrent infection you may require surgery.
- Certain exercises (e.g Epley maneovre, Brandt-Daroff exercises) involving a series of head and eye movements intended to decrease sensitivity of the nerves
- These medicines work by blocking a molecule called histamine in the brain. They can be used to treat vertigo symptoms including nausea and vomiting. Antihistamines which may be prescribed include:
- Promethazine teoclate
The main side-effect of these is drowsiness, especially in children and the elderly. This may affect ability to drive and this is enhanced by alcohol. Some antihistamines are available to buy over-the-counter e.g Vertigon for the relief of vertigo symptoms.
- This is another medication which may be prescribed to help ease vertigo symptoms especially more severe nausea and vomiting associated with vertigo symptoms. This medicine may also causes drowsiness and therefore may also affect driving etc.
This is a herbal treatment which has been reported to help ease symptoms. It works by increasing blood flow to the brain which helps vertigo symptoms. It may interact with some medicines e.g warfarin and other anticoagulants, therefore it was be advisable to speak to your McDaids Pharmacist before taking these.
If you feel you may experience vertigo symptoms or would like more advice around the posisble treatments for vertigo don’t hesitate to speak with your McDaids Pharmacist who can provide you with some helpful advice.