Vertigo is a spinning sensation. The patient usually describes it as the “world spinning”. Sometimes the patient will say the world is still, but they feel like they are spinning. Vertigo is a sensation that for the most part is due to a vestibular problem (inner ear balance problem). When evaluating a new patient with the complaints of vertigo, it is really important to try and get the patient to answer the following question: Does your vertigo last for seconds, minutes, hours or days before the spinning stops? I always try to make it clear that I am talking just about the spinning sensation alone, and not the dizziness, nausea, or imbalance that may follow.
The reason why it matters so much as to how long the spinning sensation lasts is because the duration of the vertigo is different for different diseases of the inner ear system. In the case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, the spinning should last for seconds. In the case of Meniere’s Disease, the spinning can last for hours to days before it stops. The treatment for these two problems is very different.
I just wanted to share this with you so that you can take a minute to really reflect on the pattern of your vertigo so that when you are talking with your doctor or physical therapist, they are getting the correct information that will help to lead them to the correct diagnosis and treatment for your problem.
Vertigo, painting by Gunther Forg 1988