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Vertigo

Vertigo often gets better without treatment. See a GP if it keeps coming back or is affecting your daily life.

Check if it's vertigo

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 do to help ease vertigo

There are things you can do to ease vertigo symptoms when they're happening, and to reduce how often it happens.

Do

  • 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

Don’t

  • 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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have vertigo that will not go away or keeps coming back

What happens at your appointment

If you have vertigo, a GP will ask about your symptoms to try to find out what could be causing them.

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.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You have vertigo and:

  • have a severe headache
  • are being sick or feel very sick
  • have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or 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 cannot be woken up to A&E or call 999.

Treatment for vertigo

Most people with vertigo get better without treatment.

Treatment will depend on the cause. A GP might prescribe antibiotics if it's caused by an infection.

You could also be given exercises to do to try to correct your balance.

Antihistamines can sometimes help with vertigo symptoms.

Driving and vertigo

If you drive, you must tell the DVLA about your vertigo.

Get more information on driving with vertigo on GOV.UK

What causes vertigo

Inner ear problems, which affect balance, are the most common causes of vertigo.

These include:

  • benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – where specific head movements cause vertigo
  • labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection caused by a cold or flu virus
  • vestibular neuritis – 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 include:

  • migraine
  • some types of medicine – check the leaflet to see if it's listed as a side effect

Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Find out more about BPPV on the Ménière’s Society website

Page last reviewed: 02 June 2020
Next review due: 02 June 2023