Health Facts

Vertigo

Have you ever felt dizzy or lightheaded whenever you’ve tried to stand up fast and lost your balance? That’s “vertigo “. Most of us have experienced something similar at some time in our lives. In fact, when left unattended, it is one of the most common reasons for doctor’s consultation in 80 percent of people.

Vertigo or dizziness is a common spinning sensation that can occur even when you are stationary in one spot. It affects 180 million people in India, with women slightly more likely to get it than men.

Vertigo can occur at all ages, but it is more common in older adults over 65. Even then, if you experience repeated episodes of dizziness without apparent cause or for a significant amount of time, seek medical advice immediately. Your doctor will then help you decide on the right treatment option.

Symptoms of Vertigo

Vertigo can start suddenly and last for a few seconds to several days(in severe cases). During an attack, you may experience:

Dizziness or lightheadedness, or unsteadiness

Nausea

Vomiting

Headache

Ringing sound in the ear

Pressure in the ear

Abnormal eye movements

Hearing loss

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is often triggered by a problem in how balance works in the inner ear. But some brain and spinal cord illnesses can also lead to Vertigo.

Broadly, some of the most common causes of Vertigo include:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s disease (characterized by fluid build-up in the inner ear)
  • Inflammation of the vestibular system
  • Head injury
  • Migraine headache
  • Tumor
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Ear infection
  • Low blood pressure
  • Side effects of certain medications (such as anti-depressants, blood pressure medicines, etc.)
  • Overconsumption of Alcohol

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of Vertigo usually involves a physical examination and a comprehensive history of signs and symptoms. After that, your doctor may perform a Dix-Hallpike test or a “roll test” to reproduce Vertigo. In selected cases, additional tests like MRI scans, hearing tests, and balance tests may be ordered to learn more about your underlying condition.

Often times Vertigo resolves on its own after a few days of bed rest. But in most people, the benefit lies in taking preventive medication. Some cases may also require vestibular therapy, a form of physical therapy.

Vertigo can sometimes be reduced by making specific lifestyle changes. For example  

  • Sitting down when dizzy
  • Sleeping with two or more pillows under the head
  • Eating nutritious diet
  • Exercising
  • Adequate sleep
  • Consuming less salt
  • Staying hydrated 
  • Limiting alcohol intake

Surgery is rarely considered when lifestyle changes and medications do not relieve the symptoms.

FAQ's :

Vertigo is not an illness but actually a symptom of other hereditary conditions that run in families. This is why, during your evaluation, your doctor may ask for information about your family's medical history to figure out whether you have a genetic condition that causes Vertigo.

Genetic studies have shown that people with a family history of familial episodic ataxia, migraine, Vertigo, bilateral vestibular hypofunction, and familial Ménière's disease are more likely to experience symptoms of Vertigo. But don't worry—these conditions are extremely rare, and more common environmental factors are often contributory.

Geneticists have found six gene variants (ZNF91, TECTA, ARMC9, OTOG, OTOP1, and OTOGL) that make Caucasian people with certain genetic diseases more likely to get Vertigo. While these genes affect inner ear development, maintenance, and disease, researchers are working on learning more about their role in people of different races and ethnicities.

 

When you seek treatment for vertigo-related syndromes, it's important to know if you have a genetic predisposition for such diseases. Therefore, several different genetic tests are available to determine your inherited risk. These genetic tests are comprehensive and specific enough so that your doctor can plan the most effective treatment possible. Commonly offered tests are :
•   Targeted sequencing
•   Whole-exome sequencing
•   Chromosome analysis

References:

  1. What Can Trigger Vertigo? Signs, Symptoms, Home Treatment & Curable. (n.d.). MedicineNet. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://www.medicinenet.com/vertigo_overview/article.html
  2. Vertigo: Causes, symptoms, and treatments. (2022, January 6). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160900
  3. Demystifying Vertigo and Dizziness. (n.d.). The Times of India. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/demystifying-vertigo-and-dizziness/articleshow/81777888.cms
  4. Feeling Dizzy? Find Out if it is Vertigo. Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/article/dizziness-vertigo
  5. Skuladottir, A. T., Bjornsdottir, G., Nawaz, M. S., Petersen, H., Rognvaldsson, S., Moore, K. H. S., Olafsson, P. I., Magnusson, S. H., Bjornsdottir, A., Sveinsson, O. A., Sigurdardottir, G. R., Saevarsdottir, S., Ivarsdottir, E. V., Stefansdottir, L., Gunnarsson, B., Muhlestein, J. B., Knowlton, K. U., Jones, D. A., Nadauld, L. D., … Stefansson, K. (2021). A genome-wide meta-analysis uncovers six sequence variants conferring risk of vertigo. Communications Biology, 4(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02673-2
  6. Kerber, K. (2006). The Genetics of Vertigo. Seminars in Neurology, 26(5), 484–491. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-951620

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