In medical terms, vertigo is a specific kind of dizziness - a sense that you, or your environment, is moving or spinning, even though there is no movement.1,2 Nor does vertigo, in the medical sense, mean a fear of heights. We all have a healthy respect for heights, but if this is to the extent of a phobia, it is termed acrophobia, not vertigo.Vertigo is thereby set apart from presyncope, which is a sense of almost fainting (typically a result of temporarily lowered blood pressure).

Inner ear disturbance

Peripheral vertigo is a term that collects together the inner ear causes. The labyrinth of the inner ear has tiny organs that enable messages to be sent to the brain in response to gravity. By telling our brains when there is movement from the vertical position, we are able to keep our balance, maintain equilibrium.

Disturbance to this system therefore produces vertigo and can be created by inflammationamong other causes.

Viral infection is behind the inflammation seen in the following two conditions:
  • Labyrinthitis - this is inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth and vestibular nerve (the nerve responsible for encoding the body's motion and position7)
  • Vestibular neuronitis - this is thought to be due to inflammation of the vestibular nerve.

Mnire's disease can also be caused by inflammation, but this can be due to bacterial as well as viral infection.This form of vertigo is thought to be caused by high pressure of a fluid in a compartment of the inner ear (a swelling that is also known as endolymphatic hydrops).