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Myths About Dizziness – The Truth Behind Two of the Most Common
Myth: I feel so dizzy; I must have had a stroke
Truth: There are many causes of vertigo, and not all of them are life-threatening
Benign positional vertigo (BPV) is the most common cause of vertigo. It occurs when tiny crystals in your inner ear – the ones responsible for balance – break free and float in the fluids of the inner ear. When the head moves in certain positions, these floaters tickle the balance cells and cause transient vertigo.
There are other causes of vertigo. Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear caused by a viral infection or other causes. Her symptoms, which include dizziness, usually last for several hours and then subside.
Meniere’s disease is another cause of dizziness. Although the causes of this condition vary, symptoms include an excessive buildup of fluid in the inner ear, causing pressure. This results in hearing loss,
ear congestion and debilitating recurring vertigo that can last for hours.
So how can you figure out what’s causing your vertigo? If you have BPV, you are likely to experience spinning-around-the-room vertigo that occurs when you look up, down, or roll over in bed and lasts for a few seconds.
Labyrinthitis is characterized by severe dizziness with nausea and vomiting lasting several hours. There is usually no hearing loss or other ear symptoms, but the attack may be followed by weeks of unsteadiness or temporary dizziness when turning over in bed.
Meniere’s disease is accompanied by repeated attacks of vertigo, possible nausea and vomiting lasting from 30 minutes to hours. Meniere’s disease is usually accompanied by hearing loss, pressure in the ear, and buzzing or ringing in the ear.
Fortunately, all of these conditions can be successfully treated. BPV is treated in the office, where a vestibular therapist performs a maneuver called the Semont maneuver, which moves the crystals away from the balance cells. This treatment cures 90 percent of patients with vertigo, which has to be repeated from time to time.
Labyrinthitis is treated with oral medications to reduce the feeling of dizziness and to replace fluids for any associated nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, hospitalization is required for intravenous administration of drugs until the symptoms disappear.
Meniere’s disease is treated with various drugs and surgical procedures, all of which are aimed at reducing the frequency of vertigo attacks. Medications used to treat Meniere’s disease include diuretics, circulation medications, sedatives, and steroids.
Despite these possible causes of vertigo, stroke cannot be ruled out as a cause. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted and brain cells are deprived of oxygen. There are several symptoms of a stroke, including:
o sudden onset of dizziness or vertigo;
o difficulty walking or loss of coordination;
o numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg;
o speech problems; and
o severe headache.
If any of these symptoms occur suddenly, the person should be taken to the emergency room immediately for evaluation and treatment. Every minute that the brain is deprived of oxygen, the potential for brain damage increases, so it is imperative that a suspected stroke be evaluated immediately by emergency room physicians.
Myth: My balance is bad because I’m getting older, and I’ll have to live with it
Truth: Age is not a factor in maintaining a healthy balance
Your balance mechanism acts as a tripod. The three arms of the stand are balance channels in the inner ear, vision and sensations in the joints and muscles of the legs and feet. Sensory messages from the three sources are sent to the brain, where they are organized into meaningful information. Based on this information, your brain then sends new messages – instructions to your muscles to maintain balance.
There are many causes of dizziness and imbalance. Confused messages, blocked message pathways, or weakness in the brain or limbs of the rack can cause imbalance. Other possible reasons include:
o lack of circulation in the balance area of the brain,
o drop in blood pressure when you go from sitting to standing (orthostatic hypotension),
about inner ear disease,
o vision problems,
about bone and joint disease,
o side effects of drugs and
o drug interactions.
In addition, an irregular heartbeat or heart disease and neurological diseases can cause dizziness, lightheadedness or imbalance.
But most balance problems are caused by dysfunction of the balance channels of the inner ear. Due to the dysfunction of two legs of the tripod at the same time, maintaining balance is even more difficult.
In order to properly diagnose the cause of your vertigo, you must be examined by an ENT doctor. This assessment includes specialized tests that measure inner ear function and balance. In some cases, it may be necessary to consult a neurologist or other medical specialist.
You can notice some basic symptoms yourself and share them with your doctor, which will help you with the diagnosis:
o If your imbalance occurs only for a short time when you get out of bed or when you stand up from a sitting position, this may be due to a temporary drop in blood pressure.
o Unsteadiness or unbalance just walking can be related to problems in the balance center in the brain or the balance channels in the inner ear.
o Vision problems can also be the cause of dizziness or imbalance.
Sometimes there are multiple causes of dizziness that may require more specialized treatment. But in most cases, dizziness and imbalance can be treated with the introduction of vestibular rehabilitation (VR).
VR is an individualized program of home exercises and activities designed by a therapist with specialized training in balance disorders. Before starting VR, your musculoskeletal system will be assessed by testing strength, coordination and range of motion in your arms and legs. The therapist will also observe your balance when walking.
With this information, your therapist can design a program that meets your specific needs. Your progress is then monitored at regular check-ups.
The goal of VR is to reduce dizziness and increase balance function and improve general daily activities. Remember, age is not a factor in maintaining a healthy balance!
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