Vertigo is a medical term used to describe the symptom of dizziness.
This is a vast area where neurology and otolaryngology meet. Vertigo can be a non specific sign and be a harmless fleeting sign never to reoccur again. It can also be associated with Menieres disease, a stroke, a cerebello-pontine angle tumor, a head concussion, epilepsy, a skull fracture, a migraine headache and many other conditions.
The physician needs to distinguish the origin of vertigo. Does it come from the balance organ or does it originate from the nervous system such as the cerebellum, the brain stem or the nerve connections to the eyes? A common cause of epidemic vertigo is a viral labyrinthitis that seems to directly affect the vestibular nerve or the labyrinth (the balance organ).
Mostly this occurs 1 or 2 weeks after a flu and symptoms are those of vertigo, nausea and vomiting. This lasts for several days and then subsides in most patients. However, in some it reoccurs periodically from then onwards.
About 10 % of vertigo patients have Menieres disease. Otosclerosis, bacterial otomastoiditis, vertebrobasilar blood vessel insufficiency and others can all produce vertigo.
As there can be many reasons, it is important to have the patient referred to a specialist who will order appropriate testing (otolaryngologist, neurologist). Such tests as MRI scans, electronystagmography (ENG study), audiometry studies etc. should be done to pinpoint the cause. It is only when the underlying condition has been diagnosed that effective treatment of that condition can be offered for the vertigo.
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