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VERTIGO: NOT JUST A DIZZY SPELL! - Understanding Vertigo: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vertigo is a common and often unsettling condition that can affect anyone. It is characterised by a sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving, even when there is no actual movement.

This post aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of vertigo, including its causes, symptoms and treatment options such as physiotherapy.


What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is not a disease itself but rather a symptom that can result from various underlying conditions. It falls under the broader category of dizziness, but it is distinct in that it specifically involves a false sense of rotational movement. People experiencing vertigo often feel as though the room is spinning around them, leading to balance issues and a risk of falling.

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo can be triggered by several different factors, including:

  1. Inner Ear Problems: The most common cause of vertigo is issues within the inner ear. The inner ear contains structures that help regulate balance. Problems here can lead to conditions like:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): Caused by tiny calcium particles clumping in the inner ear canals.

  • Meniere's Disease: An inner ear disorder caused by fluid buildup and changes in ear pressure, leading to vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss.

  • Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis: Inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain, often due to infection.

  1. Migraine: Some people experience vertigo as a symptom of migraine headaches, known as vestibular migraines.

  2. Head Injuries: Trauma to the head can damage the inner ear or brain structures involved in balance.

  3. Medications: Certain medications can cause side effects that include vertigo.

  4. Central Nervous System Disorders: Conditions such as multiple sclerosis or stroke can lead to vertigo if they affect the brain regions involved in balance.


Symptoms of Vertigo

The primary symptom of vertigo is a sensation of spinning or moving. Other symptoms that may accompany vertigo include:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sweating

  • Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus)

  • Headaches

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

  • Hearing loss

These symptoms can last from a few minutes to several hours or even days, depending on the underlying cause.

To diagnose vertigo, a healthcare provider will typically perform a physical examination and ask about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. They may also conduct specific tests to determine the cause, such as:

  • Hearing tests: To check for hearing loss associated with inner ear problems.

  • Balance tests: To assess the function of the inner ear and balance system.

  • Imaging tests: MRI or CT scans to look for abnormalities in the brain or inner ear.


Treatment for Vertigo - Can Physiotherapy Help?

The treatment for vertigo depends on its underlying cause. Common treatments include:

  1. Medications: To relieve symptoms of nausea and motion sickness.

  2. Vestibular Rehabilitation: A type of physical therapy designed to help strengthen the vestibular system, which can improve balance and reduce vertigo symptoms.

  3. Canalith Repositioning Procedures: Specific maneuvers such as the Epley maneuver can help move calcium deposits out of the inner ear canals in cases of BPPV.

  4. Lifestyle and Home Remedies: Staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol, and reducing stress can help manage symptoms.

  5. The Role of Physiotherapy in Treating Vertigo For many types of vertigo, particularly those arising from vestibular system disorders, physiotherapy offers a highly effective treatment option. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a specialized form of physiotherapy designed to alleviate vertigo symptoms and improve balance and overall function.

  6. Surgery: In rare cases where other treatments are ineffective, surgical options may be considered.


Coping with Vertigo

Living with vertigo can be challenging, but there are ways to cope with the condition:

  • Avoid sudden movements: Move slowly and carefully to avoid triggering vertigo.

  • Use a cane or walker: To help maintain balance and prevent falls.

  • Sit or lie down: If you feel a vertigo attack coming on, find a safe place to sit or lie down until it passes.

  • Stay informed: Understanding your condition and triggers can help you manage and reduce episodes.

Vertigo can significantly impact your quality of life, but with the right diagnosis and treatment, it is manageable. If you experience persistent or severe vertigo, consult a healthcare provider to determine the cause and appropriate treatment plan. Remember, managing vertigo often involves a combination of medical intervention, lifestyle changes and coping strategies to ensure a better quality of life

MEET BRODIE HOWATSON - VESTIBULAR SPECIALIST AT FIT2GO





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