Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What are usual causes of vertigo? If occasional,is this an issue to be alarmed about?"


I have had not changes in lifestyle or diet recently. I am not on any medications. I have had a few bouts of vertigo the past couple of weeks, but has worsened today. I am having a constant "cloudy" and unstable feeling. Advice? Is this something that could be serious? Thank you. I have an appointment with a General Practitioner this afternoon. Is that a good start, or should I see a specialist?


The term "vertigo" is used often when patients describe a sensation of being "dizzy," and it is important to clarify what you mean exactly. Vertigo refers to a sensation of motion when you are in fact stationary; patients often say "it feels like the room is spinning around me." In dealing with true vertigo, it is often thought of as either a peripheral or central problem.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Primary care-doctors near you

The most common cause of vertigo is from a peripheral problem (i.e., not involving the brain) and originates in the inner ear. The most common overall cause is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), and is caused by the abnormal movement of small rocks in the tubes that comprise the inner ear. Occasionally these rocks can become dislodged from their usual spot, causing brief (lasting seconds to 1-2 minutes) vertigo; BPPV is often triggered by changes in head position. Another clue that the vertigo is most likely originating in the ear is the association with any hearing loss, ringing in the ear or a pressure sensation in the ear. Central vertigo due to problems in the brain (such as a stroke) usually cause vertigo lasting a longer period of time, and are commonly associated with other symptoms such as nausea, trouble speaking or walking, or double vision. Any of these symptoms should prompt you to go to the emergency room. Otherwise, your primary care physician is a good place to start your work-up, as this is a very common complalint seen in the outpatient setting.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.