Vertigo is a sensation of room spinning (or spinning within a room) that is mostly caused by an inner ear disorder. In fact, about 90 percent of cases presenting with a true sensation of vertigo are due to some sort of a balance disorder of the balance canals.

By far the most common cause of vertigo is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). In this disorder, which shows a lifetime prevalence of 1 in 3 (which means that the chances of getting it at some point in your life are 1 in 3), so called otoliths (generally referred to as crystals) become loose and float uncontrollably in the inner ear. Once a certain head position is assumed, these otoliths stimulate one balance canal for about one minute. The typical head motions triggering this bout of vertigo are rolling over in bed or looking up to screw in a light bulb. The disorder is easily diagnosed and can be managed via repositioning maneuvers, which attempt to relocate the otoliths into a different part of the inner ear.

Other causes of vertigo include vestibular neuronitis or Meniere’s disease. The former is a sudden drop of balance function in one ear. Typically, the brain will compensate for this sudden drop but it might take several weeks. Meniere’s disease, on the other hand, is a chronic disorders associated with frequency balance spells lasting in the order of 20 minutes to 2 hours. Patients will also develop a certain pattern of hearing loss, which is a hallmark feature of the disorder. Management includes non-surgical and surgical methods and frequent physician visits are typically necessary. Labyrinthitis is another cause of vertigo as are other rare disorders.