We’ve all had the sensation of being dizzy – as if you can’t focus, can’t see straight, can’t stand upright without swaying or falling. You may even experience “tunnel vision,” where your peripheral vision goes dark for a few seconds.
Dizziness is common and can have many causes, but it is never normal. You should not feel like you must go on living with dizziness. Dizziness, especially in the geriatric population increases the risk of falls and associated injuries. Our goal is always to find the source of dizziness through assessment in the clinic, or referral to another physician if necessary. Early treatment is associated with better outcomes, so do not put off seeking care.
The symptoms of vertigo are different from general dizziness. Those experiencing vertigo have reported feeling as if they are “rocking” or “spinning,” even when they are sitting still. This sensation has also been described as if the world is spinning around you.
Vertigo: Causes and Symptoms
Vertigo is most commonly caused by an imbalance in the inner ear, also known as the “vestibular system.” Your vestibular system helps you maintain your balance and center of gravity by sending messages to your brain regarding your movement. When this is impaired, the necessary messages become diminished or blocked from your brain, and your movement becomes affected. You may feel as if the world is spinning around you, you can’t focus your vision for prolonged periods of time, or you can’t stand/move properly without feeling like you are going to topple over.
Some common causes of vertigo include:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This is the most common cause of vertigo. It occurs when the tiny calcium crystals located in your ears break apart and move around to different parts of the ear, where they are not supposed to be. This can cause sudden spinning sensations (vertigo) and inner-ear discomfort.
Meniere’s disease. This occurs when fluid builds up in your ear(s). This typically includes “ringing” in your ear and sudden waves of intense dizziness that may last for hours. You may also experience momentary hearing losses.
Vestibular neuritis. This is an inner-ear infection that can cause vertigo.
Migraines. Migraines can impact your vestibular system, thus causing episodes of vertigo which may be coupled with a sensitivity to light or sound. Vision may also be impaired.
Vestibular Hypofunction. Often the balance system in your inner ear is not working properly. This may be unilateral or bilateral. The vestibular system must be challenged with activities that reproduce dizziness in order to strengthen the peripheral vestibular system and decrease symptoms.
Additional causes: Ear infections, medications that harm the inner ear, immune system compromise, and rarely from diabetes or stroke due to lack of blood flow to the inner ear.
Some accompanying symptoms to vertigo may also include:
Inability to focus or remain alert
Nausea or vomiting
Arm or leg weakness
Difficulty seeing or speaking
Abnormal eye movements
Our physical therapists perform a thorough examination of your balance and vestibular symptoms. We evaluate your visual movements, positioning of your head, neck mobility and balance. At times, we may need to provoke symptoms to determine the exact mechanism of your vertigo or dizziness.
If you are suffering with dizziness and vertigo, you can benefit from physical therapy intervention to improve symptoms and increase your neck mobility. There are specific vestibular and balance exercises that are performed to settle the calcium deposits in the inner ear and improve your balance systems.
Call us today to discover how we can stop your vertigo or dizziness and make you feel like yourself again.