What is vertigo?

Clin Ter. Sep-Oct 2003;154(5):341-8.


Vertigo is one of the types of dizziness with dysequilibrium, presyncope and lightheadedness. But what does vertigo mean? Vertigo indicates a sensation of false movement (generally described like a rotation) but sometimes the patient can describe it like a sensation of tilt. Instead, the word dizziness indicates a sensation of disturbed relation to surrounding objects in space with feelings of rotation or whirling characteristic of vertigo as well as non-rotatory swaying, weakness, faintness and unsteadiness characteristic of giddiness. In our review we describe, after brief considerations about functional anatomy of the vestibular system, the most important cause of vertigo considering the duration of the symptom; moreover we underline the importance of anamnesis and of the objective examination for a correct differential diagnosis of a dizzy patient. As to objective examination we describe the most important characteristics of nystagmus, that is the only objective sign in vertigo, of central and peripheral origin. At last we consider the most efficacious therapies, like as medications (specific and aspecific), surgery (conservative and destructive) and rehabilitation, in relation the characteristics and the causes of vertigo.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Audiometry
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dizziness / diagnosis
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meniere Disease / diagnosis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Physical Examination
  • Posture
  • Rotation
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Vertigo* / chemically induced
  • Vertigo* / diagnosis
  • Vertigo* / epidemiology
  • Vertigo* / etiology
  • Vertigo* / surgery
  • Vertigo* / therapy
  • Vestibular Function Tests