Have you ever had those moments where you feel your equilibrium go? Perhaps you got up too fast, or you may be experiencing dizziness after being stationary too long. However, it’s possible that you could be dealing with vertigo.
Vertigo is a sensation of feeling off-balance and experiencing dizzy spells that may make you feel like you’re spinning or that the world around you is spinning. This sudden imbalance can be scary, even if it’s temporary. However, there are ways to identify when you are experiencing vertigo.
Dizziness, loss of balance, and lightheadedness are perhaps the most common symptoms of vertigo, but there are additional symptoms that can be linked to this sudden sensation of imbalance:
- nausea and vomiting
- full feeling in the ear
- motion sickness
- tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movement from side to side)
If you find yourself exhibiting these symptoms, reach out to your primary care physician for consultation as soon as possible. While in-person appointments are limited right now due to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a phone call or telemedicine visit is also an apt way to get attention for this medical condition. Telemedicine services can be a standard part of a treatment plan, including getting a prescription through telemedicine appointments. If you’re exhibiting these symptoms along with chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or numbness, call 911 for emergency services.
Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo is commonly linked to inner ear disturbances and fluid in the middle ear, creating that sense of imbalance and a spinning sensation that impacts your surroundings. However, other underlying health problems like migraines, head and neck injuries, and even strokes, can be the cause of this medical condition.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV, is the most common form of what’s known as positional vertigo. It occurs when canaliths, or tiny calcium particles, are dislodged from their normal location and collect in the inner ear. This prevents the inner ear from sending signals to the brain about bodily movements and creates an imbalance.
There’s also Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder caused by a buildup of fluid and change in the pressure in the ear. This can cause episodes of this type of vertigo, along with tinnitus and hearing loss.
Vertigo can also be caused by labyrinthitis, an inner ear problem related to infection. This infection leads to inflammation in the inner ear around nerves that are important in fighting off an imbalance.
We’ve all had those moments where we experience lightheadedness after a workout or while running in a shirt or a racerback bra and finding ourselves suddenly looking for a seat. However, if these symptoms are recurring and potentially increasing in severity, that’s when it may be time to consult your doctor about a test for vertigo.
Hearing professionals may utilize Videonystagmography, or VNG, an assessment of the vestibular system. During this test, patients wear special goggles, which contain sensitive cameras that focus on the eye and carefully record eye movements. VNG also includes caloric evaluation, which tests the strength of the vestibular system as part of the nervous system. A member of your care team will introduce cool and warm air into each ear canal and focus on the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.
There’s also the Romberg test, which evaluates the body’s sense of positioning, requiring healthy function of the columns of the spinal cord. The Romberg test is used to investigate what may be causing loss of motor coordination.
The Epley maneuver is commonly used as a treatment for vertigo, in which the head is placed into specific positions with the goal of repositioning the otoconia, which mediates balance and hearing. There’s also vestibular rehabilitation, a type of physical therapy aimed at helping strengthen that system to send stronger signals to the brain regarding head and body movements. Extreme vertigo can be debilitating, but those who suffer from it have options.