Vertigo is a certain kind of dizziness, often wrongly used to describe a fear of heights (actually called acrophobia). Vertigo is not a disease, but only a symptom. It refers to the sensation of spinning or whirling one experiences when there is a disturbance in the body equilibrium the feeling that you or the environment is moving when there is actually no movement. The sensation of movement is called subjective vertigo while the perception of movement in objects around is called objective vertigo. The term may also be used to describe lightheadedness, faintness or unsteadiness.
Vertigo usually occurs due to a disorder in the vestibular system (comprising the inner ear, the vestibular nerve, brainstem and cerebellum). This system is responsible for integrating sensory stimuli and movement and keeping objects in visual focus as a person moves.
When the head moves, signals are transmitted to the labyrinth, an apparatus in the inner ear that is made up of three semicircular canals surrounded by fluid. The labyrinth then transmits the information to the vestibular nerve which in turn passes it to the brainstem and cerebellum (areas of the brain that control balance, posture and motor coordination). There are a number of reasons for dizzy spells.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is the most common form, caused by sudden head movements. Vertigo can also be caused by certain problems in the brain or the inner ear. It may also be caused by inflammation within the inner ear. Other causes include migraine, head trauma, decreased blood flow to the brain and base of the brain, fluctuating pressure of the inner ear fluid, systemic diseases, certain antibiotics, environmental chemicals, etc.