If someone has spun you around, like after you have been on a carnival ride, you probably know what vertigo is like -- the feeling that the world is spinning around you. But if you feel dizzy and didn't just step off a roller coaster, then you might have one of the two most common forms of vertigo: central and peripheral.


Sometimes the term vertigo is often incorrectly used to describe a fear of heights. The medical term for a fear of heights and the dizzy feeling associated with looking down from a high place is "acrophobia". That's unrelated to vertigo, as if you have been spun around.

Vertigo is a symptom of a medical condition, not a disease by itself. It's important to work with your doctor to investigate causes of vertigo.

There are two types of vertigo:

  1. Peripheral Vertigo
  2. Central Vertigo

Episodes of peripheral vertigo tend to pass quickly, while central vertigo often comes without warning and may last for long periods of time. The central vertigo episodes are generally much more intense than peripheral, and you may be unable to stand or walk without help.

Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is the most common type of vertigo. Most cases are caused by a problem in the inner ear (vestibular system), which controls your balance.

The most common causes of the vestibular system trouble that leads to peripheral vertigo are:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Meniere's disease (MD)

Other causes are:

  • Labyrinthitis
  • Perilymph fistula
  • Superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (SSCDS)

Central Vertigo

Central vertigo is caused by a disease or injury to the brain, such as:

  • Head injuries
  • Illness or infection
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Migraines
  • Brain tumors
  • Strokes
  • Transient ischemic attacks ("mini" strokes that last for a short time and don't cause permanent damage)

WebMD: Types of Vertigo: Peripheral, Central, BPPV, and More

Last Updated on Oct 22, 2020