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Vertigo (dizziness)

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Vertigo the sensation that you are in motion, even when you are standing still, or that everything around you is moving. It feels similar to being on a boat, and can result in the same feeling of loss of balance, nausea and vomiting. The attack typically lasts from a few seconds to minutes, but it can last days. Effects range from minimal to severe enough to affect your daily life, but it's more than just dizziness.

Vertigo has nothing to do with a fear of heights. This is a popular misconception that started from the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. Acrophobia means fear of heights, but it may cause a spinning sensation when looking down from a high place that is similar to some aspects of vertigo.

What are the causes of vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by many conditions, the most common of which is viral infections that give you coughs, colds, flu and earache. Other causes include changes in blood pressure, headaches, migraines and head injuries. It’s a feature of certain related conditions, such as labyrinthitis, BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) and Meniere's disease. Lifestyle factors like poor diet (including low iron), dehydration and heavy menstruation in women can also play a role.

How can I manage it myself?

If severe, try to avoid movements that might bring on the dizziness, like moving your head in certain directions. Avoid causing yourself any injury from falls by walking in good lighting, taking things slow and easy when getting out of bed or a chair.

Do not drive. Monitor your blood pressure as well as other lifestyle factors like your diet and hydration status. Eating foods rich in iron may help women who have heavy menstrual bleeding.

Avoid causing yourself any injuries from falls by walking in good lighting and taking things slow and easy, hang on to a rail or solid furniture if necessary. Do not drive and be aware of the signs of dizziness. Sitting down immediately will help alleviate the sensation.

When should I see my doctor?

Your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms. Depending on your history they will examine various aspects of your body from your heart, to your ears or your nervous system. They will also take your blood pressure. There are many causes of vertigo, so the treatment will very much depend on what has been found.

They may recommend you do some exercises or they may prescribe you some anti-histamine medication such as prochlorperazine, which has anti-dizziness properties. If this does not improve symptoms, they may refer you for rehabilitation training or to a specialist for further investigation.

Can I drive with vertigo?

Before you can drive, you must let the DVLA know that you are experiencing any dizziness that is sudden, disabling or recurrent.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023