You may have felt like you are dizzily rotating or that the world is dizzily turning about you even when you are perfectly still. That is known as vertigo or symptoms associated with an underlying health problem in the inner ear or brain. Vertigo can be caused by migraine headaches, BPPV, labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuronitis, head or neck injury, stroke or tumor or ear damage because of certain medications.
A sense of vertigo is induced when you spin around for some time as children usually do but that can only last for a few minutes. Unlike this, vertigo occurs spontaneously and can last for many hours or even days. Depending on its cause, vertigo can exhibit extra symptoms including tinnitus or ringing in the ears, hearing impairment, nystagmus or abnormal eye movements, fainting, nausea, and vomiting.
Causes of Vertigo
Since vertigo is not a health condition but a symptom of different conditions, it can either be peripheral which result from health problems of the inner ear or central which is associated with problems in parts of the brain or nervous system.
The vestibular system consisting of the semicircular canals and the vestibule of the inner ear detect and send signal impulses regarding the changes in positions of the body to the brain.
The brain then coordinates these signals together with those from the visual and skeletal system to maintain equilibrium and balance of your body. Vertigo, therefore, arises because of the damage, infection, inflammation, injury or malfunction of parts of the inner ear or the nervous system.
Dealing with Vertigo
Vertigo can occur temporarily or persistently, and it is common among senior people especially women. Other risk factors include head injuries, medications like antidepressants, smoking, alcohol and anything that increases the risk of stroke-like heart disease and diabetes. The incidence of BPPV, which is the common form of vertigo caused by the development of calcium carbonate crystals within the inner ear fluid, is 2% to 3% of the population.
The inability to function in daily life as a result of vertigo may lead to the development of mental health problems like anxiety and depression. This is because you will always experience dizziness whenever you drive, use a ladder, wake up abruptly or even walk down or up the staircase. You will also need to be careful not to make sudden head changes, especially when looking up because it will elevate the level of dizziness.
Getting help with Vertigo
The symptoms of vertigo usually come and go and commonly last from a few minutes to a few hours. Sometimes it can occur just once or with symptoms that are so mild that they even go unnoticed. Most of the time, the brain compensates for changes to the inner ear and the symptoms resolve without treatment.
If that does not happen, a physical therapist will have to take you through a Vestibular Rehabilitation Program to encourage the central nervous system to compensate for the inner ear problems.
To limit the impacts of vertigo on everyday life, you may want to make some lifestyle changes like walking slowly, using a cane, sitting down whenever you feel dizzy and using good lighting at night. There are also herbal solutions that help relieve the symptoms of vertigo including turmeric, ginger root, essential oils, almonds and cayenne and ginkgo biloba.
Almost half of the people experiencing vertigo manages it through exercises at home. Physical therapists recommend a common exercise known as Epley maneuver for BPPV since it helps to move the calcium carbonate particles away from the semicircular canals to the vestibule where they cannot cause any harm. The exercise involves a set of steps that are done every night before bed.
Another exercise remedy for BPPV that is meant to break up the crystals is known as Brandt-Daroff which involves steps that are repeated five times in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Diagnosis and treatment
Vertigo is always the result of an underlying health condition, and it is highly recommended that you visit the doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Diagnostic tests like nystagmus, head impulse, Romberg and Unterberg tests are done to determine the cause since proper treatment depends on it. On serious cases, a CT scan or MRI may be required for proper diagnosis.
If vertigo is a result of Meniere’s disease then drug administration or other treatments like pressure pulse treatment, diuretic therapy, and surgery is considered. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics while anti-histamine and anti-emetic drugs are used to relieve symptoms like nausea and motion sickness.
The key to treating vertigo is diagnosing the cause behind it. While there are cases that resolve without any treatment, others simply persist and require the attention of physical therapists and doctors for proper diagnosis and treatment. If this is not done, the underlying condition may get worse, and symptoms aggravate leading to falls and walking difficulties.