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Causes of Vertigo

Common Causes of Vertigo (Dizziness)


Updated June 17, 2014

Woman with fingers pressed on temples, eyes closed
Hitoshi Nishimura/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

A sudden onset of vertigo (dizziness) means that something is potentially wrong with the brain or blood pressure. Almost all conditions that affect the brain are potentially life-threatening. In the case of sudden vertigo, call your physician immediately.

Causes of Vertigo

Many times, vertigo is made worse by movement or changes in position. Two common causes of vertigo are labrynthitis (inner ear infection) or a condition called Meniere's disease. Both of these conditions are caused by fluid fluctuations in the inner ear. The ear sends a message to the brain that the victim is moving, while the eyes send a different message. Since the two messages conflict, the victim feels dizzy.

Another very common cause of vertigo that worsens with a change in position is dehydration. Dehydration often follows vomiting or diarrhea. Vertigo often causes nausea and vomiting, so it may be hard to distinguish inner ear problems from dehydration. Victims of vertigo that gets worse with changes in position should be seen by a physician. Untreated, inner ear problems can lead to a loss of hearing and dehydration can lead to shock.

Any condition that affects the brain can cause vertigo. One of the easiest ways to remember other causes of vertigo is to use the mnemonic AEIOU TIPS:

Treatment for Vertigo

Meclizine (Antivert®) is a prescription medication used to treat vertigo. In most cases, treatment depends on finding a solution for the underlying cause of the vertigo. If the vertigo causes nausea, doctors may prescribe an anti-emetic medication like promethazine (Phenergan®). Be sure to call 911 or a physician for vertigo that comes on suddenly.

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