Vertigo, along with dizziness and other balance-related health problems, is among the most common health problems seen in adults. In the United States, 40 percent of people experience vertigo at least one time during their lifetime. Women are just slightly more susceptible than men. Vertigo often happens due to a problem with the vestibular system, the part of the body that controls your balance. This system includes structures of the inner ear, the vestibular nerve, brainstem, and cerebellum (part of the brain that is responsible for sensory perception, motor control, and coordination). The vestibular system regulates where the body is in its environment, including posture and balance.
Causes of Vertigo
For the most part, the cause of vertigo is unknown. However, a number of conditions cause vertigo, dizziness, and imbalance issues. Here is a brief list of the most common ones:
- Meniere’s disease: Resulting from an imbalance of fluids in the inner ear, Meniere’s disease causes periods of vertigo lasting for a few minutes to a few hours. It is often accompanied by fluctuating hearing loss at low tones and a feeling of pressure in the ears called aural fullness. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is often present, too.
- Bacterial and viral labyrinthitis: Labyrinthitis comes from an inflammation in the inner ear and can cause vertigo attacks lasting from hours to days.
- BPPV — benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: If you are suffering from BPPV, certain head of body movements will cause a short attack of vertigo lasting less than a minute. For example, rolling over in bed, leaning over to pick something up, or turning your head quickly can all incite vertigo. BPPV is due to microscopic calcium deposits called otoliths being trapped in one of the 3 semicircular canals of the inner ear. This is part of the vestibular system. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo and can often be cared for with positive results.
Various neurological conditions can cause vertigo:
- Brain tumors
- Multiple sclerosis
- TIAs (transient ischemic attacks)
Other non-neurological causes also exist:
- Orthostatic hypotension (a sudden decrease in blood pressure when you stand up)
- Side effects from prescription and non-prescription meds
- Psychiatric or emotional problems (panic attacks and anxiety)
- Heart arrhythmias
Symptoms of Vertigo
The correct definition of vertigo is a false sensation of movement of either you yourself or the environment around you. This sensation has been described best as spinning, whirling, or moving vertically or horizontally. Vertigo attacks often happen sporadically, with no warning. In some people, however, they are chronic. The attacks last anywhere from a few seconds to as long as days at a time.
Vertigo comes with a variety of symptoms. Here are just a few that you may experience:
- Nystagmus — abnormal, involuntary eye movements
- Tinnitus — ringing in the ears
- Feeling faint
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbances
- Diplopia — blurry vision
- Dysarthria — slurred speech or problems talking
- Hearing loss
- Weakness and numbness
- Oscillopsia — visual disturbances
- Diaphoresis — sweating
- Ataxia gait — difficulty walking
It is vital when talking to your doctor to give an accurate, detailed description of your symptoms so as to get the proper diagnosis. Even if you think something isn’t related or isn’t important, still mention it to your doctor and let him or her decide.
How Vertigo Is Diagnosed
You may be wondering how a diagnosis of vertigo is made. Usually, a number of tests are done to check the function of the vestibular system (inner ear), the somatosensory system (the flex and pressure sensors in your feet), and the vision system. The goal is to determine how well these systems are working or if they adding to your symptoms. There are 3 subtests that may be done:
- Positional or positioning: This tests your vestibular system. You will be asked to move your head only or head and body to see how the system reacts to these movements and changes in gravity.
- Calorics: This measures the vestibular systems function when cool and warm air is put into each ear canal separately. Comparisons are then made to see if there is a difference in the way the vestibular system reacts in each ear. When having the caloric test done you may notice a slight sensation of movement. This will go away when the test is finished.
- Oculomotor: The oculomotor system is the visual system for balance. This test measures voluntary eye movements when you complete exercises while looking at a dot on a light bar.
Getting to the Root of the Spinning of Vertigo
Traditional care for vertigo has proven to be ineffective because it is often just addressing the symptoms, not the root cause. The Epley maneuver has been successful in temporarily helping people control the spinning of vertigo. It can be done at your own home and only requires you to lie or sit in a number of different positions so as to realign the inner ear and restore some balance. But how can lasting relief be found?
Many people are finding upper cervical chiropractic care to be just what they are looking for. If the top bones of the neck (the C1 and C2 vertebrae) are out of alignment, they can be putting the brainstem under stress and causing it to malfunction. If the brainstem begins sending signals to the brain that the body is in motion when it is not, vertigo can be the end result. Therefore, correcting this misalignment can restore proper communication between the brain and the body.
We use a gentle method to encourage the bones to move back into place naturally. It does not require us to pop or crack the neck or back. Many people report seeing good results in a short period of time, some after just one adjustment.
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