Skip to main content


Vertigo is a symptom, rather than a condition itself. It’s the feeling that you, or the environment around you, is moving or spinning.

This feeling may be barely noticeable, or it may be so severe that you find it difficult to keep your balance and do everyday tasks.

Vertigo can develop suddenly and last for a few seconds or much longer. If you have severe vertigo, your symptoms may be constant and last for several days, making daily life very difficult.

Symptoms of vertigo may include:

  • loss of balance – which can make it difficult to stand or walk
  • feeling sick or being sick
  • dizziness

When to get medical advice

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP practice if:

  • your vertigo comes on suddenly 
  • you have vertigo that will not go away 
  • you have vertigo that keeps coming back 
  • vertigo is affecting your daily life 

Diagnosing vertigo 

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and can carry out an examination to help determine some types of vertigo. They may also refer you for further tests.

What causes vertigo?

Inner ear problems, which affect balance, are the most common causes of vertigo. It can also be caused by problems in certain parts of the brain.

Causes of vertigo may include: 

Depending on the condition causing vertigo, you may have other symptoms, such as:

Treatment for vertigo 

Most people with vertigo get better without treatment. Treatment will depend on the cause.

Medicines, such as prochlorperazine and some antihistamines, can help in most cases of vertigo.

Your GP may refer you to an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist or a balance physiotherapist if needed.

Things you can do to help your symptoms 

There may be things you can do yourself to help your symptoms, and reduce how often you have vertigo.


  • lie still in a quiet, dark room to reduce the spinning feeling
  • move your head carefully and slowly during daily activities
  • sit down straight away when you feel dizzy
  • turn on the lights if you get up at night
  • use a walking stick if you're at risk of falling
  • sleep with your head slightly raised on 2 or more pillows
  • get up slowly when getting out of bed and sit on the edge of the bed for a minute or so before standing
  • try to relax and avoid stress – anxiety can make vertigo worse


  • do not bend over to pick things up – squat to lower yourself instead
  • do not stretch your neck – for example, while reaching up to a high shelf


If you have vertigo, there are some safety issues to consider. For example:

  • you should tell your employer if your job involves operating machinery or climbing ladders
  • you may have a higher chance of falling – read about preventing falls for advice on reducing your risk

Driving and vertigo 

If you drive, you must tell the DVLA about your vertigo.

Further information on driving with vertigo on GOV.UK

Fear of heights 

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'.

Further information and advice about phobias