Vertigo feels like you or everything around you is spinning – enough to affect your balance. It's more than just feeling dizzy.
A vertigo attack can last from a few seconds to hours. If you have severe vertigo, it can last for many days or months.
Things you can try
There are things you can do to ease vertigo symptoms when they're happening, and to reduce the number of episodes you have.
- lie still in a quiet, dark room to reduce the spinning feeling
- move your head carefully and slowly during daily activities
- sit down straight away when you feel dizzy
- turn on the lights if you get up at night
- use a walking stick if you're at risk of falling
- sleep with your head slightly raised on 2 or more pillows
- get out of bed slowly and sit on the edge of the bed for a while before standing up
- try to relax – anxiety can make vertigo worse
- do not bend over to pick things up – squat to lower yourself instead
- do not stretch your neck – for example, while reaching up to a high shelf
When to get medical help
See a GP if you:
- have vertigo that will not go away or keeps coming back
What happens at your appointment
Your GP will ask about your symptoms to try to find out what type of vertigo you have.
A simple test that involves you moving quickly from a sitting to a lying position might be done to check your balance. This could bring on symptoms.
You might also be referred to a specialist for further tests.
Get advice from 111 now if you have vertigo and:
- have a severe headache
- are vomiting or feel very sick
- have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to help you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Go to A&E if you have vertigo and:
- double vision or loss of vision
- hearing loss
- trouble speaking
- leg or arm weakness, numbness or tingling
Always take someone who has lost consciousness to A&E or call 999.
Most cases of vertigo get better without treatment.
Treatment will depend on the cause. Your GP might prescribe antibiotics if it's caused by an infection.
You could also be given special exercises to do to try to correct your balance.
Antihistamines can sometimes help with vertigo symptoms.
Inner ear problems, which affect balance, are the most common causes:
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – where specific head movements cause vertigo
- labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection caused by a cold or flu virus
- vestibular neuronitis – inflammation of the vestibular nerve
- Ménière's disease – a rare inner ear condition, which sometimes involves ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or loss of hearing
Other things that can cause vertigo:
- some types of medicine – check the leaflet to see if it's listed as a side effect
Sometimes the cause is unknown.