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Understanding Vertigo & What It Does To You

What Is Vertigo

The feeling you get when you're standing on the edge of a tall cliff and are looking down, that is vertigo. Although one of the symptoms is dizziness, it is not quite the same as simply feeling lightheaded. It can also happen with both feet planted firmly on the ground and with no apparent reason the strange sensations can suddenly arise. Additional symptoms of vertigo may include:

- Unsteadiness or loss of balance

- Nausea

- Vomiting

- Headache

- Sweating

- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears

- Temporary hearing loss

- Erratic eye movement

Basically vertigo occurs when the brain sends false signals to the motion sensor detectors in the ear. It can also be caused by a collection of tiny little crystals of calcium carbonate in the ear (called otoconia) that touch the motion sensor when the head moves resulting in a sense of vertigo.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

While peering down a long drop can incite vertigo, it is actually caused by an inner ear problem. It could be due to a simple infection or a fluid imbalance in the inner ear. Some of the most common causes of vertigo include:

- BBPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo where the symptoms are caused by a movement of the head - most often when getting out of bed or tilting the head to one side.

- Trauma or an injury to the neck, head or ear

- Migraines

- Meniere's Disease

- Vestibular Neuritis or Labyrinthitis

- Stroke

- Brain tumours

- Side effects of some types of medications.

Some cause are relatively mild and benign while others can be extremely serious. It is recommended to visit a medical practitioner or audiologist to identify the causes sooner rather than later when experiencing symptoms of vertigo.

How Is Vertigo Diagnosed?

There are 3 tests that are commonly used to test for vertigo:

- A hearing test called an audiogram

- An eye movement test called a electronystagmography test

- A rotary chair test where eye movements are monitored while the chair rotates

Additional tests may be ordered if there is a concern that the vertigo may have a more serious cause such a brain tumour.

How Is Vertigo Treated?

The treatment for vertigo depends largely on the cause of the condition. An ear infection may be treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to eliminate the infection and reduce the swelling. Other treatments may include:

- Vestibular rehabilitation

- Canalith repositioning maneuver

- Lifestyle and dietary changes

- Pharmaceutical treatment to reduce the symptoms of vertigo or for prevention in certain cases.

- Discontinuing any medication that may have vertigo as a side effect.

Although vertigo itself is not a serious disorder, the underlying cause may be serious. It is therefore recommended to be tested for vertigo if any of the above mentioned symptoms are being experienced by a qualified audiologist and identify the cause in order for it to be treated.

Even if the cause is benign, testing and treatment are highly recommended. Extreme vertigo can affect the ability to function normally and perform basic daily tasks. It can also result in falls or injuries that are a result of the symptoms of feeling unsteady, imbalanced or lightheaded.


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