You feel like you are about to fall over. The room is spinning so fast, the furniture sliding out of your frame of vision, and you need to grab for something to make the whirling stop. Unfortunately, grabbing onto something doesn't really help because the spinning is, literally, all in your head. When you have a balance disorder, it is usually caused by something going haywire with your ear or brain. When the ear cannot communicate effectively with the brain, it sends mixed signals that the brain interprets as movement. Fixing this whirling problem is often long, complicated, and frustrating. Here's a look at three of the most common conditions that try to sweep you off your feet.
Benign Proximal Positional Vertigo
Benign proximal positional vertigo is often called plain vertigo by the general public. It is characterized by mild to intense dizzy spells, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, a feeling of movement, lightheadedness, and a loss of balance. Researchers aren't exactly sure what causes vertigo, but the culprit is thought to start in the ear. The balance apparatus in the ear is made up of semi-circular canals filled with fluid. When you turn your head from side to side, the fluid move around and impacts tiny hairs in the canal. This is then translated as movement by the brain. Doctors think that vertigo is caused by tiny crystals in these canals that send false signals to the brain. The treatment for this is the canalith repositioning procedure. It comprises a series of head movement to flush the crystals out of the canals. Sometimes surgery is required to remove the crystals, but this is rare.
The labyrinth is part of the inner ear that decodes sounds and helps with balance. It is made up of the cochlea, or organ that deciphers sound, and the semi-circular canals that help you determine and keep your balance. Labyrinthitis is the inflammation and irritation of these tissues. You will often feel vertigo, trouble focusing your eyes, dizziness, loss of balance, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears. It is caused by alcohol abuse, fatigue, allergies, inner ear infections, respiratory infections, smoking, and overuse of aspirin. This condition will usually resolve on its own in a few weeks, but you can take antihistamines, anti-nausea medications, and motion sickness medications. Although the symptoms do go away in time, sometimes the hearing loss is permanent. The best way to treat labyrinthitis is to prevent it from the start by avoiding infections, drinking alcohol in moderation, and quitting smoking.
This is a disease that also causes vertigo, or spinning, with ringing in the ears and intermittent hearing loss. It is a chronic condition that affects people in their 40s and 50s, but anyone can get Meniere's disease. Another very common symptom is a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and this feeling can often indicate the start of an episode. Many theories exist as to the cause of Meniere's, but doctors are still unsure what causes it. Some think it is because of an excess of fluid in the middle ear that causes the pain and vertigo. Head trauma, allergies, and a genetic predisposition have all been floated as possible causes without much proof. Doctors cannot cure this condition, but it is often controlled with motion sickness medications and anti-nausea drugs. You may even be prescribed a diuretic, or water pill, to help with the accumulation of fluids. Surgical measures, such as removing the labyrinth, injecting steroids, and injecting antibiotics into the middle ear, can often help symptoms.
1) Mayo Clinic; Benign Proximal Positional Vertigo; May 2010
Disclaimer:The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. The information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplement or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. Sime Darby Healthcare excludes all liability on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in the article. Sime Darby Healthcare disclaims all responsibilities for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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