What is vertigo, and what can you do if you have it?

What is vertigo, and what can you do if you have it?

For a child, spinning on a merry-go-round is exhilarating. For an adult, when that sensation occurs for no apparent reason, it can be downright alarming.

The feeling of whirling while stationary is called vertigo, and most often is caused by a disturbance in the inner ear.

“When a person has vertigo, he or she feels as if the room around them is moving or their body is moving when that’s actually not the case,” says Dr. Arkadiush Byskosh, an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor) at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “As a result of this feeling, a person may become unsteady, lose their balance and may fall. It can be quite disorienting.”

The most common type of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which isn’t serious but can be bothersome. It happens when the crystals in the ear become dislodged. When these crystals of calcium carbonate, also known as canaliths, become loose, it affects a person’s sense of balance and results in dizziness.

How do you treat vertigo?

The best treatment is to move the crystals to some place in the ear where they can’t cause trouble. The procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office. It’s called canalith repositioning, or the Epley maneuver, which involves turning and tilting the head.

“It makes the crystals go to another part of the ear so the dizziness goes away,” Dr. Byskosh says. “It doesn’t take very long, and it’s usually quite effective.”

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  1. Rosalind Minor June 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm · Reply

    I have been suffering with Vertigo for 3 month. Its aggrevating. At least I have an idea of what is going on. How long will it last?

  2. I had vertigo and was diagnosed and the doctor did nothing in his office. Sent me for physical therapy in which I could not get in for a month. By the time I got in the vertigo was gone. Waste of money. Now in your article I see the doctor can perform some therapy.. The weird thing was that it was an ear, nose, and throat doctor who insisted on a hearing test before diagnosis and when your that dizzy you can not even concentrate.

  3. I was diagnosed with BPPV about 20 years ago. I had it for 3 months before diagnosis by my neurologist (my PCP was unable to diagnose it). At that time, the only place my insurance company found to perform the maneuver was Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. I can’t say that I am totally cured, but I do have episodes now and then but have been able to perform the maneuver myself, if needed. I just wish I knew what started it in the first place!

About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.