Q I sometimes get vertigo – what’s the best treatment?
A Vertigo is a specific form of dizziness that makes us feel that we, or the room, are spinning. It’s unpleasant, and can make us feel unsteady or sick as our brains try to make sense of conflicting information coming from our eyes, body posture and inner ears (vestibule and labyrinth). Common causes are virus infections and BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). In BPPV moving the head produces sudden short episodes of dizziness; it’s thought to be linked to floating debris in our semi-circular canals (part of the inner ear’s balancing system). Vertigo also has many other causes, including motion sickness, medication side-effects, migraine, head injuries and other brain/ear disorders. Ménière’s disease, caused by fluid build-up in the inner ear, produces intermittent dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus (abnormal sounds).
The best treatment depends on the underlying cause and you may need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, have brain/ear scans and other tests, or even stop driving. Medication such as betahistine or cinnarizine can relieve short-term vertigo and nausea, but chronic vertigo is often best treated with repositioning or vestibular rehabilitation exercises, which the specialist can arrange.