Vertigo is more than just a dizzy spell

Feeling off balance?

> Talk to an expert

Vertigo can not only be disruptive to your life, it can be dangerous, as well. The dizziness and imbalance from it can interfere with your ability to walk and can cause you to fall frequently. Plus, if you have vertigo, it is likely being caused by another health issue, so you need to get checked out by a health care provider.

The term “vertigo” describes the sensation of rotating or spinning. A person with it feels like either they are spinning or the room is spinning around them. Thanks to popular culture, and the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Vertigo,” there is a misconception that vertigo has to something to do with being afraid of heights. In reality, it is typically a symptom of an issue with your inner ear, which affects your balance – at any height. It can come upon you suddenly or be with you for years.


There are several possible causes for a case of vertigo, and they each require a different form of treatment. It can be caused by:

  • Ear infection
  • Structural damage to inner ear
  • A virus
  • Stroke
  • Head trauma
  • Postural hypotension
  • Food poisoning
  • Infectious disease

OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute offers a unique vertigo clinic that cares for hundreds of patients each year. OSF INI will conduct a variety of tests to determine the true cause of your problem. Clinical neurovestibular testing is a non-invasive method of evaluation, and treatment depends on the source of the problem. Don’t ignore your vertigo symptoms. Call Illinois Neurological Institute at (877) 464-6670 to set up a consultation.

Vertigo vs. dizziness

Because vertigo is often associated with nausea, vomiting and a fainting sensation, it is often mistaken with dizziness, according to OSF INI’s Jorge Kattah, MD. Intermixing the two terms is fairly common, even within the medical community. Figuring out how to properly classify whether a patient is experiencing vertigo or dizziness should not be a doctor’s top priority.

“Not only patients, but providers mix the terms, and therefore, it is best to focus on the triggers and duration of the symptoms rather than on a precise terminology agreement,” Kattah says. “Physicians often spend a long time trying to differentiate the meaning of the complaint. In my experience, this effort is often not helpful.”

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Brain & Spine