Common Causes of Vertigo

Approximately 69 million Americans have varying problems with dizziness and balance. At Montgomery County ENT Institute, we evaluate and treat patients who are dizzy or experiencing vertigo.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo describes any abnormal sense of movement. Many people describe it as feeling like the room is spinning, feeling off balance or feeling “off.” It’s sometimes associated with ear noises, ear fullness, nausea, vomiting, and nystagmus (eye movement). These episodes can be temporary or chronic. They sometimes occur with sudden movements, like turning your head quickly or rolling over in bed. Vertigo can be very debilitating and a scary experience. It’s important to be evaluated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to find out the underlying cause of the vertigo and treat it.
What causes Vertigo?
There are several conditions that can cause vertigo. Here are some of the most common ones that we see in our office:
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (also known as BPPV): This occurs when small crystals in the inner ear are displaced. Symptoms are brought about by positional movements – turning quickly, rolling over in bed, or bending over.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This fluid imbalance in the inner ear may also cause vertigo. Vertigo episodes may also be associated with hearing loss, ear fullness, and tinnitus (hearing a noise in your ear). Symptoms may fluctuate.
  • Deep Wax Buildup: Sometimes if there is a wax (cerumen) buildup up against the eardrum, some people can have problems with their balance as well as ear discomfort.
  • Other ear related causes of vertigo: ear infections, labyrinthitis, vestibular migraines.
  • Other non ear related causes of vertigo: low blood pressure, medications, head injury, stroke, tumor, or others.
When to seek help for Vertigo?
If vertigo persists, you should be evaluated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. You should also discuss this with your primary care doctor. Evaluation usually involves taking a thorough history to understand what the person is experiencing. Next, a physical examination of the ears, nose, and throat is performed. An Audiologist will complete a formal hearing test and positioning tests will be completed. The positioning tests check for displaced crystals in the inner ear (BPPV). Click HERE to watch a video of what this looks like.
What is the treatment for Vertigo?
The treatment for vertigo varies depending on the cause of the vertigo. If it’s BPPV, which is one of the most common causes of vertigo, we usually provide at-home exercises to help strengthen the inner ear and vestibular system. These are called Cawthorne Exercises. Again, these are only for a specific type of vertigo and sometimes formal vestibular therapy is prescribed. Click HERE to learn more about a common repositioning tool called the Epley Maneuver.
If the ENT specialist determines that the cause of the vertigo is not ear related, then they may refer you to another specialist for evaluation depending on what you’ve been experiencing.
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