Dizziness spells, also known as vertigo, are one of the most reported symptoms to doctors, second only to headaches. It isn’t really regarded as an illness in its own right, but is usually a prominent symptom of a range of disorders, and can vary in severity from brief and mild attacks through to a permanent sensation lasting several days and affecting daily life. The dizziness may also be accompanied by balancing problems or nausea.
So what actually causes it?
Chiefly, problems with dizziness and vertigo point to issues with the inner ear, which is the body’s main control station for the sensation of balance. As such, infection or inflammation of the inner ear or nervous system around it, in conditions such as labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis, leads to dizziness as a symptom alongside the more typical signs of the body fighting infection.
However vertigo does nonetheless exist as a largely singular phenomenon in BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), where movements of the head trigger spells of dizziness – this can range from getting out of bed through to travelling, which puts limitations on what the sufferer is able to do. BPPV is directly caused by particles that appear in the fluid canals that control balance, throwing the sufferer off-balance. Also, Meniere’s disease is notable for attacks of vertigo accompanied by tinnitus, hearing loss and anxiety.
Sometimes, vertigo is not a product of problems with the inner ear, and may have its root in the nervous system. Migraine is a particularly common example of an affliction where dizziness may accompany the other symptoms. Serious illnesses, such as types of brain tumours, strokes and multiple sclerosis, may also exhibit vertigo amongst the range of symptoms.
It is also possible for vertigo to not have an inward cause but instead be a side-effect of medication, in which case alternative treatments may have to be explored, depending on the severity.
How to know what is causing dizziness spells in my particular case?
If you presented yourself to a doctor and complained of dizziness, they will have a lot of questions and probing to get to the bottom of what might be causing it.
First of all, they are interested in what circumstances may have triggered the first vertigo spell and then work forwards from there, assessing any other symptoms and the degree to which it affects your everyday life. They will also be interested in conducting a brief physical examination of your ears and eyes to look for any unusual features, and may ask you to deliberately trigger an attack so that they can assess the issue first hand.
You may be referred to a specialist for further tests. Hearing tests are quite common in these circumstances, especially with accompanying symptoms such as tinnitus and loss of hearing. They may also flush water through your ear to check that the balance mechanisms are functioning properly.
There are some tests that are not based around the responsiveness of the inner ear. Some tests involve wearing goggles and tracking your eye movements in various scenarios. You may be asked to carry out exercises in a balancing machine so that the specialist can see how well you are able to respond to changing balance situations. The idea is that this should stimulate your eyes, ears and nervous system to work in harmony, and can also be used for treatment as well as diagnosis.
There is also the likelihood that you may be referred for a scan so that any obvious physical manifestations causing the vertigo can be detected. Of course scans are very concerning to the patient, but bear in mind that we are dealing with a part of the body that is concealed and impossible to directly probe without surgery, so this is the only surefire way.
What known cures exist?
For some people, vertigo has eventually gone away untreated, and for those with the dizziness pinpointed to a specific ailment, it has receded as part of treatment for the underlying cause, usually under prescribed medication. For labyrinthitis that would mean a course of antibiotics and resting up. For more persistent illnesses, like Meniere’s disease, there would be a treatment program involving medication, physiotherapy and changes to the diet to mitigate the severity of the attacks and make everyday life more manageable.
For those where vertigo is the primary issue, some types of exercises have been found to be helpful in managing or curing the problem. One of particular note is the Epley manoeuvre:
And if none of these really work out?
That may be the case. Many vertigo sufferers, and there are millions, just go through life having to be careful and mitigating situations and stances that could trigger an episode. They have to be mindful about how they get out of bed, stand up, reach or bend over for things, and find strategies to get “used to” the sensation. This is the least ideal remedy obviously, but where conventional medical solutions have failed they will find ways to manage it for themselves or consult advice from fellow sufferers on internet forums.
After all, healthcare doesn’t come cheap, and some feel that the medical sciences’ lack of permanent answers to treating common ailments for good, such as headaches, dizziness and colds, is what keeps the health profession afloat. The only balance they are interested in is the balance sheet. However in this atmosphere of suspicion, fellow sufferers are happy to dispense advice, since we are all in it together.
Something that is less reported is the secondary symptoms of vertigo, which relate to anxiety and depression around the disorder, fear of attacks, and being kept prisoner to the symptoms.
One particular method people use to help themselves can be found here. The method involved requires 15 minutes of treatment a day, which should start showing positive results after a fortnight. Not bad for what amounts to just half a day’s work! The method replicates some of the exercises that astronauts use to help maintain their balance in zero gravity, so it’s well tried and trusted to help those who are in a constant state of imbalance. Best of all, it doesn’t require any more medication, consultation, therapies and to-ing and fro-ing between specialists.
Remember, those folk we send up to space have an impeccable clean bill of health, yet over half of them fall victim to motion sickness during their astronaut training. Could a half of all these healthy people have inner ear problems? No – there’s much, much more to it than that. Send somebody into space and you will see how it takes its toll on various bodily organs and hormone production. These are all aspects to the balance conundrum that haven’t really trickled down yet into common vertigo treatments back on planet Earth.
So, if you want to tackle your dizziness spells head on, a more holistic approach is required. It isn’t just about this tiny part of your ear malfunctioning, there’s the bigger picture to think about. And imagine not just only getting rid of your dizziness, but also waking up each day surging with energy you never knew you ever had, getting more and more done and living a more positive and active life.
Join other former sufferers and get on board immediately with the new approach to managing vertigo and dizzy spells HERE.