Causes of Vertigo Attacks

Vertigo is the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning. It is often associated with feeling faint, light headed, weak or dizzy. Standing, moving or changing positions can intensify the symptoms of vertigo and may lead to nausea or vomiting. During a vertigo attack, lie still, rest and avoid bright lights. If you continue to have unexplained vertigo attacks, seek the assistance of a doctor to determine the cause and a treatment plan.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Benign Positional Vertigo

Benign positional vertigo is a common cause of vertigo that is due to a disturbance in the inner ear 1. The spinning sensation may be brief, often starts suddenly and is triggered by head movement. The episodes occur due to calcium carbonate crystals breaking loose in the inner canal, which can happen due to age or possibly a head trauma, according to the Mayo Clinic. As you move, the particles shift and can cause a vertigo episode.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's disease can produce vertigo episodes lasting 30 minutes or longer 3. Meniere's is associated with an excessive buildup of fluid in the ear that brings on vertigo. The cause of the excess fluid is unknown. Vertigo related to Meniere's disease will often present additional symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center 3. Patients with Meniere's will often have two or more of these symptoms at the same time: slow progressive hearing loss; buzzing or ringing in the ears; and a sensation that the ear is clogged.

Inner Ear Inflammation

Inflammation of the inner ear, also called acute vestibular neuronitis or labyrinthitis, may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection 4. Ear infections, upper respiratory infections or allergies may cause swelling and irritation of the inner ear, which can lead to vertigo. This type of vertigo attack is often sudden and intense, and may last for a number of days. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that in addition to an infection, excessive drinking, smoking, stress and certain medications, like aspirin, may lead to inflammation of the inner ear.

Additional Causes

Migraine attacks may cause vertigo that can last a few minutes or a few days. Stress, food allergies and hormonal changes can cause migraine-related vertigo. Less likely causes of vertigo may involve neurological problems, including brain hemorrhage, stroke or multiple sclerosis.