What Causes Vertigo? 5 Important Factors

What Causes Vertigo?

The Causes of vertigo are vast, but we first need to remember that Vertigo is a symptom, and never ever ever a diagnosis. Vertigo is like saying ‘it hurts’. What hurts? What does it feel like? Where is the pain? Is it sharp or dull? Is it acute or chronic? What is the cause of the pain, just like we would ask ‘what is the cause of the vertigo?’

Knowing the pain is like knowing your vertigo. It’s only a symptom, and it is never a diagnosis. We need to determine the cause of the vertigo in order to accurately help you understand your body better and manage life with a vestibular disorder! 

What Causes a Vestibular Disorder?

A vestibular disorder is an inner ear disorder that can cause many symptoms, including but not limited to, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, and more. Vestibular Disorders are largely split into central and peripheral vestibular disorders. A central disorder happens in your brain; like vestibular migraine, concussion, persistent postural perceptual dizziness, or a stroke. A peripheral vestibular disorder happens in the vestibular system itself, like vestibular neuritis, BPPV, or Meniere’s Disease.

In order to understand a vestibular disorder, we also need to understand the vestibular system itself. 

What causes vertigo? Many things, but typically vestibular disorders are what causes vertigo. 

What is the Vestibular System?

Your vestibular system lives in your skull, deep in your inner ear. It is attached to your hearing organ, AKA your cochlea, and the vestibular system itself. It’s made up of bone, cartilage, and two types of fluid. If you want to learn more about the vestibular system and it’s inner workings, read more here.

5 Causes of Vestibular Dysfunction

What causes vertigo? Vestibular disorders are very common causes of vertigo!

  1. Illness
  2. Injury
  3. Medication ototoxicity
  4. Mechanical issues and calcium debris
  5. Migraine disorders

Illnesses and Infections of Vestibular Disorders

There are many illnesses that are associated with vestibular disorders, which cause vertigo symptoms.

Inner ear infections, like a vestibular neuritis, will leave you with a vestibular hypofunction, which is a peripheral vestibular disorder. IF you want to learn more about peripheral disorders, listen to this free podcast episode. This kind of inner ear infection can also cause labyrinthitis, which is the same as neuritis but includes hearing loss.

Long COVID is another infection that can cause dizziness. COVID infections can infect the vestibular system, also leaving you with a hypofunction, or can cut off the blood circulation to the inner ear, causing damage to the vestibular system itself. This can cause chronic or acute dizziness, both of which are treated in Vestibular Group Fit! You can read more about Long-COVID and dizziness in this article here.

Injuries and Vestibular Disorders

Your vestibular system can be injured, specifically with head and neck trauma, in a Traumatic Brain Injury. TBI, mTBI, or concussion can cause a vestibular hypofunction. In some cases, if the person is impacted in the side of their head it can cause a hypofunction in the vestibular system itself. These disorders, just like all disorders, are manageable and rewiring your brain with vestibular rehab is possible to do to get back to a place where dizziness is not 24/7.

Medication Ototoxicity

Ototoxic medications are some NSAIDs, Chemotherapy drugs, Gentimicin, antimalarials, loop diuretics, and salicylates (1). Sometimes, these medications are absolutely necessary, especially chemotherapy medications. Because these medications can cause injury to the vestibular system(s), they can be what causes vertigo.

However, when they’re taken they can be toxic to your inner ear and cause a decrease in function, hypofunction, in one or both ears. This can cause intermittent or permanent symptoms in one or both ears. For example, after chemotherapy treatment, bilateral vestibular hypofunction can be common, as well as 

Sometimes, there are intentional ototoxic doses of Gentamicin, like for the treatment of Meniere’s Disease. 

Mechanical Disorders and Debris

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome, and Perilymph Fistula are all mechanical disorders. 

BPPV is a mechanical disorder because calcium carbonate crystals are misplaces from the otolith organs into the semicircular canals, causing episodic vertigo. If you want to learn more about BPPV, click here.

Superior canal dehiscence and perilymph fistula are both mechanical disorders as they are physical holes in your inner ear causing specific symptoms. A surgical or other medical intervention is usually recommended. 

Migraine Disorders (Vestibular Migriane)

Migraine is more than just a headache. Migraine is a full body neurological disorder that occurs in your brain 24/7 but presents itself in attacks. Vestibular migraine is the most common cause of neurological dizziness and vertigo! Vestibular Migraine is so treatable, but can feel so difficult to get there. We will help you with this, as you need a comprehensive treatment program with a comprehensive outlook, from everything from medical treatment to lifestyle adjustments and being educated about your disorder.

Dizziness gets better, you just need the right tools!

The right tools exist and they’re all in 1 place in Vestibular Group Fit! You can learn more about Group, and why we use this method here.


(1) Joo Y, Cruickshanks KJ, Klein BEK, Klein R, Hong O, Wallhagen M. Prevalence of ototoxic medication use among older adults in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2018 Jan;30(1):27-34. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000011. PMID: 29757919; PMCID: PMC6044447.

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