What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a fairly common symptom, and means a subjective sensation of rotary movement, either to the person or of the environment. Often there is inability of the upright body to remain so, and there may be a falling to one side. Sometimes the patient may fall to the floor. but the subjective sensation is that the floor has come up and hit the patient. Disorientation occurs.
Vertigo comes from a word meaning a turning, and the sense of rotation that takes place is an apt description of symptoms. The so-called eighth cranial nerve (the auditory nerve) has two parts. One, the auditory component, is concerned with the appreciation of sound. The other, called the vestibular part, supplies the balance mechanism located within the inner part of the ear.
Often infections of the labyrinths (commonly in association with an upper respiratory tract viral infection – often called URTI) may adversely affect the vestibular nerve and mechanism. So an acute labyrinthitis may occur.
Intense vertigo, usually with a marked tinnitus (ringing sensation in the ears), a staggering gait, and possibly irregular eye movements may occur.
Bed rest for a few days is essential, for it may be impossible to carry on normal activities in the upright position. It is worth treating any intercurrent infection (such as an URTI). Antibiotics are usually useless, for this is often viral in nature, and antibiotics will not kill viruses.
Treatment is entirely symptomatic. A darkened room with peace and quiet is often preferable. Sedation or the use of tranquillisers may he ordered by the doctor. Prochlorperazine, either in tablet form (Stemetil) or injection, may assist in alleviating the dizziness. But such treatment must be ordered by the physician. As the URTI or intercurrent infection subsides, the symptoms of the labyrinthitis usually decline and phase out with no aftermath. Any persisting form, of course, needs adequate medical investigation.