ZocdocAnswersDo MRIs explain why some people have vertigo?

Question

Do MRIs explain why some people have vertigo?

I've been prone to vertigo since I was a teenager and I hope now that I'm older we can finally determine why. I've heard of some people getting MRIs to have their brain function analyzed. Could an MRI explain why I have vertigo? If so, could it help us determine how to treat it?

Answer

Vertigo is the sensation of motion when an individual is stationary. This is often described as a feeling of "the room spinning around me." The vast majority of vertigo is due to a type called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), and is due the movement of small stones (called otoliths) within small canals located in the inner ear. This type is benign because it is not dangerous, despite the fact that it can be very distressing to a patient. It is typically brought about by sudden changes in head position, and symptoms usually last no more than 1-2 minutes. MRI is not useful in detecting changes responsible for BPPV, but is helpful in ruling out other types of vertigo that are caused by an abnormality within the brain or the nerves leading from the brain to the inner ear. A thorough history and physical exam conducted by your doctor can help distinguish your vertigo as BPPV or that due to another kind of vertigo. If BPPV is not the definitive cause, your doctor may choose to obtain an MRI to help gain further details about your underlying diagnosis. Any type of treatment would depend specifically on what type of abnormality is found, and where within the skull this abnormality is located.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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