The following discussion is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to provide the reader with specific medical advice. Please consult with your personal physician, or with a neurologist, for specific advice, guidance and information regarding your particular circumstances.
A sense of balance is maintained by complex interactions among the brain, inner ear, eyes, and joint and muscle receptors. If a problem occurs in any one of these systems, dizziness or vertigo may result.
Some people describe a balance problem by saying that they feel dizzy, lightheaded, or unsteady. Dizziness is usually the result of inner ear dysfunction. Dizziness can also result from decreased blood supply to the brain due to narrowing of blood vessels in the neck or head.
Vertigo is described as a feeling of spinning or of the surroundings spinning. This is often the result of an inner ear problem. Vertigo can be associated with nausea, vomiting, ringing of the ears, or hearing loss.
A complete medical history will help in the diagnosis of vertigo or dizziness. You may be referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. Laboratory tests may be pursued that can further determine the etiologies of dizziness. One such test is videonystagmography (VNG), which evaluates the balance function of the inner ear. Imaging studies such as CAT scan or MRI scan of the head can further study the anatomy of the brain, hearing and balance nerves, and sinuses. Doppler studies are able to evaluate the blood supply to the brain.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the dizziness or vertigo. Treatments can include physical maneuvers and/or medications.