Vertigo Balance Problems Bellevue, WA
Vertigo is what doctors call the sensation of dizziness where a person feels as if the environment around him or her is spinning or swaying. It usually comes with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, and loss of balance while walking or standing.
People who experience attacks of vertigo from time to time may find it very difficult to function and fulfill everyday tasks. It is the most common type of dizziness, and about 60 to 70 million Americans are estimated to have it along with other balance problems.
It is important to note however that vertigo, rather than being a medical condition is actually a symptom in itself, and is not contagious. Before we go into the different underlying medical conditions that cause this symptom, let’s look into how this happens and what parts of the body are involved.
The Inner Ear and Balance
The anatomy of the inner ear is such that it is composed of canals that help the body gain a sense of our position and motion on a regular basis. Our vestibular system is a set of structures in our inner ear composed of fluid-filled canals and tubes called the saccule, utricle, and semicircular canals.
The saccule and utricle sense movement in a straight line, while the semicircular canals sense rotational movement. Together, these canals send information about our motion and position to the brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve.
This information is then processed inside our brain stem, which sends adjustments to our cerebellum to give us a sense of balance as we move. When any of these systems are affected (inner ear, brain stem, or cerebellum), our sense of balance is also affected and it results in the feelings of dizziness that we identify as vertigo.
Most of the time, vertigo is caused by inner ear issues, such as viral infections and the like. When it is the inner ear and its structures that are affected, doctors label the cause “peripheral”. Below are some of these peripheral causes:
- BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo happens when tiny calcium particles cause irritation to the small hair cells in the inner ear, causing the inner ear to become spontaneously inflamed.
- Meniere’s disease is caused by a buildup of fluid in the inner ear. It may also result in tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) and hearing loss.
- Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, as it is also called, is usually caused by a viral infection that results in an inflammation of the inner ear. A simple thing, like a regular cold, may lead to labyrinthitis if the infection is not dealt with.
When to Call Your Doctor
On rare instances, vertigo may be caused by issues in the brain stem or cerebellum. These are more serious conditions and you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Here are a few symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- If you experience numbness, clumsiness, fatigue, coupled with vision and speech difficulties, consult your doctor immediately. These symptoms may actually be signs of a stroke or ministrokes.
- When it is coupled with other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, loss of hearing, and lack of bladder or bowel control, it may also signify the presence of vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders. In these types of disorders, the back of the brain does not receive enough blood.
- An accident that results in a bump to the head may cause a concussion. In cases like these, it would be best to see a doctor to check for any possible injury your head may have sustained.
Diagnosing the Causes
In general, you should go to your primary care provider first, as the underlying cause may be simple enough to treat. Your primary care physician may also refer you to a neurologist (if the underlying cause is brain-related) or to an ear, nose, and throat or ENT specialist (if the cause is an inner ear problem).
Aside from inquiring about your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may also give you a few tests to determine the type of dizzy spells you are experiencing. A full neurologic exam is also given to test brain function and to determine if the cause is peripheral or central.
If a brain injury is suspected, a head CT or MRI scan will be ordered. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for an infection if that is found to be the cause or give you antihistamines to help you deal with the symptoms.
Physical Therapy and Maneuvers
For those with recurring symptoms, your doctor may also recommend some form of physical therapy to help train your sense of balance. Called vestibular rehabilitation, this type of physical therapy aims to "retrain" your brain using balancing exercises.
BPPV is the most common type of vertigo and is also the easiest to treat. Those with BPPV can do canalith repositioning maneuvers with the guidance of their doctor or physical therapist. These movements are designed to remove calcium crystals from the inner ear.
There are 4 basic repositioning maneuvers that you can do at home or with the guidance of your doctor: the Epley maneuver, the Semont maneuver, the Foster maneuver and the Brandt-Daroff exercise. These involve some repetitive head-tilting exercises to help remove calcium deposits from the inner ear.
Other Natural Remedies
There are also some natural self-care remedies that you can do at home to help treat and manage your symptoms. But these should only be done after a thorough physical evaluation has been made and any possible serious underlying causes have been ruled out or addressed.
Some of these home care remedies may include: taking anti-nausea medication or migraine-prevention medication, vitamin D supplementation, acupuncture, and aromatherapy using essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and ginger for relief.
Your doctor may recommend that you increase your fluid intake and avoid smoking, alcohol, or caffeine as these could affect your circulation. A low salt diet is also beneficial for those with Meniere’s disease.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” or so an old saying goes. This has never been more real than for patients who have incapacitating vertigo. Those who have it probably wish they could have prevented the occurrence of its symptoms at the onset.
You may not be able to help some factors that cause it, such as age, but you can certainly make some lifestyle changes that can delay or lower your chances of getting it. These lifestyle changes may include a change in your diet if necessary. After all, we are what we eat.
An anti-inflammatory diet can help to greatly decrease your chances of getting vertigo as you age. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon have been known to reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. Likewise, shitake mushrooms and green tea have special antioxidants that help fight against inflammation.
Vertigo Treatment in Bellevue, WA
Most of the time, vertigo goes away even without any kind of treatment. However, for some, the symptoms are quite debilitating while they last. They may be so bad that they can prevent a person from functioning and going about his or her daily routine, affecting his or her quality of life.
But you don’t have to be at the mercy of these recurring symptoms. As with a lot of chronic health issues, it can be managed with the right approach, the right health care provider and the right attitude. Even if you are afflicted with recurring symptoms, take heart because your doctor can recommend different ways to treat them.
In particular, there is hope for those living in or around the Washington area, as the Kirkland Health Institute has the expertise to treat and help you manage your vertigo symptoms. Book an appointment with us today and let us help you!