13 Head-Spinning Causes of Vertigo (Dizziness)

Vertigo is a sensation lots of people will experience at some point in their lives. From spinning rooms to unsteady gaits and lightheadedness, the symptoms of vertigo are beyond unpleasant.

Vertigo can be a commonplace symptom that sometimes results from a situational event, such as riding on a carnival ride. It can, however, also be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.

So, what can cause vertigo? Lets explore…

Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that sits on your auditory nerves. When this tumor increases pressure to certain parts of the ear, it may cause vertigo. While the tumor itself is benign, it can cause life-threatening complications by sitting on these nerves and leading to a build-up of fluid in your brain.

This next symptom is another main cause of dizziness…

Inner Ear Inflammation

The inner ear is responsible for much of our sense of balance, so it makes sense that when this area is inflamed, a person often experiences vertigo.

The usual cause of this condition is a bacterial ear infection. Fortunately, antibiotics clear many bacterial infections.

What causes vertigo attacks? It’s related to something as simple as standing up too fast…

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

This type of vertigo is caused by a sudden shift in the position of your head. For example, you might turn over in bed and experience vertigo or go on a carnival ride and get off feeling dizzy and off-kilter.

The ear once again plays a role in this type of vertigo, and if you’re experiencing it frequently, it’s important to see a doctor so they can confirm there’s not a more serious underlying condition to blame.

While this condition can be annoying, it’s relatively harmless, unlike the following…

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that ruthlessly attacks the immune system and causes distress to sufferers. About 20 percent of people who develop multiple sclerosis will experience vertigo as a symptom.

What may cause dizziness? The usual cause of vertigo in multiple sclerosis is the growth of a lesion on the cerebellum or brain stem, causing you to experience the well-known symptoms of vertigo.

While vertigo will not be present just by itself, it may be one of the most severe symptoms of early MS. If multiple sclerosis is the reason for your vertigo, it’s vital to seek treatment immediately.

Unfortunately, MS is common, unlike this next condition…

Meniere’s Disease

Here is yet another inner ear disease that disrupts your sense of balance.

Scientists believe Meniere’s Disease (MD) is the result of abnormal fluid levels in the inner ear. Importantly, this condition affects only one ear at a time. Meniere’s Disease can, unfortunately, lead to hearing loss. When this complication occurs, your doctor can prescribe hearing aids and other medical interventions to increase your ability to hear or slow down the loss of your hearing.

While the cause of MD isn’t known, it’s easy to track the following…

Head or Neck Trauma

While the exact mechanisms of vertigo aren’t well-known in instances of injury and trauma, we do know that any kind of trauma to the head or neck can cause this dizzying condition.

Head and neck injuries are extremely serious, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing vertigo from this type of injury. Sports injuries, car accidents, and even assaults are also frequent causes of head trauma or neck injury.

Trauma is a common cause of vertigo, but sometimes something as simple as fluctuating hormones can affect balance and posture…


Hormone levels fluctuate wildly during pregnancy, which can cause all forms of uncomfortable symptoms, including vertigo, for expectant mothers.

Elevated hormone levels set off a chain reaction that relaxes blood vessels. This relaxation is great for increasing blood flow to the fetus but can be the main cause of dizziness. Unfortunately for pregnant individuals, blood flow back to their own bodies lowers blood pressure, which often results in vertigo.

The next cause of vertigo is sudden and intense…

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be debilitating. You can experience shortness of breath, have a sense of impending doom, and may even begin to breathe irregularly (hyperventilate), something that can cause you to become lightheaded and dizzy (both symptoms of vertigo).

It’s natural, then, that panic attacks are a frequent cause of vertigo for people suffering from chronic anxiety.

The next cause of vertigo is closely related to panic attacks, too…

General Anxiety

While related, panic attacks and generalized anxiety are not the same things. A panic attack is acute and intense. By contrast, general anxiety can continue indefinitely if left untreated.

While anxiety by itself won’t cause vertigo, your reactions to it can. For example, people who are experiencing anxiety often make movements with their heads or bodies (such as pacing or standing too quickly). These swift movements might cause dizziness.

Generalized anxiety is very real. This next condition, however, only causes phantom sensations, including vertigo…

Mal de Debarquement (MDD)

This particular disorder affects the vestibular system, which feeds the brain information regarding motion, spatial orientation, and head position. It is therefore key for motor functions, like helping us stay balanced and stabilized.

MDD causes a phantom feeling of movement, where someone feels like they’re moving even when they are standing perfectly still. People describe this sensation as “swaying” or “bobbing.” The sensations can be a result of boating, airplane travel, or even sleeping on water beds. Removing triggers usually stops the dizzy spells.

This next potential cause, unfortunately, can be very difficult to prevent and spot…


Vertigo can be a symptom of a stroke. So, if you are experiencing troubling vertigo and have other symptoms of a stroke, it’s vital to get to an emergency room or doctor right away, as strokes can be life-threatening.

A stroke happens when a blockage occurs in the brain, meaning blood flow is disrupted. In severe cases, blood vessels rupture in the brain, leading to internal bleeding. It’s the lack of blood supply to the brain that causes dizziness in a stroke. Of course, vertigo might not be all you notice. Stroke sufferers frequently report symptoms that include:

  • Changes in vision or hearing
  • Imbalance
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Drooping or numbness on one side of the face
  • Weakness or partial paralysis in one side of the body

Of course, strokes aren’t the only attack on the brain that may cause dizziness…


There are various kinds of migraines. One type, a vestibular migraine, has vertigo as its primary symptom.

Strangely enough, you may not even have what would be described as a headache with this type of migraine. Instead, you may become lightheaded, nauseated, confused, disoriented, anxious, or dizzy.

If you’ve had migraines in the past and now find that you’re having these symptoms, minus the headache component, you very well may have a vestibular migraine.

No one enjoys migraines. But, even migraines cannot compare to the next potential cause of vertigo…

Brain Tumor

While something as simple as standing up can cause vertigo, sometimes the underlying cause of this dizzying sensation is much more serious, such as a brain tumor. Even a benign tumor can press on the inner structures of the brain, causing pain, vertigo, and a host of other terrible symptoms.

So, what’s most important to remember when dealing with vertigo?…

Seek Treatment for Vertigo

Vertigo is a symptom that may be situational, resulting from something as simple as riding a roller coaster. Other times, it may be the symptom of a serious medical problem, such as a stroke or brain tumors. Since vertigo can have many causes, it’s important to see a doctor for a professional diagnosis.

What’s most important to remember is to always seek professional medical advice when you’re experiencing symptoms that interfere with your life. In other words, if you notice alarming symptoms, be on the safe side and seek help.

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