Feeling Dizzy??

by Dr. Jennifer Stinson

Have you ever felt so dizzy or vertiginous that you cannot perform simple tasks like turning your head to change lanes while driving or reaching up in your kitchen cabinet to grab a cup? Vertigo or dizziness is a common problem that often prompts us to go to a primary physician only to be prescribed a pill to ‘make it go away.’ Often you leave the doctor’s office very uninformed regarding what is truly the cause of the vertigo. While vertigo is a diagnosis code that is commonly used and accepted by insurances, it is not always a true diagnosis. Vertigo or dizziness is often a symptom of an underlying problem, and when a pill is prescribed to suppress that symptom, the disease is not found or treated; the symptom is simply suppressed so that you no longer feel dizzy. 

There are many causes of vertigo, and if you are experiencing these symptoms, especially for any prolonged length of time, you should consult a physician. This article describes one very common cause of dizziness, Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo, or BPPV. BPPV can be caused by head trauma, but very often, the cause is not known. The symptoms, however, are very memorable. They are provoked by the head movements described above and additionally may occur while rolling over in bed, turning your head quickly, or laying back to get your hair washed at a salon. These head movements cause a feeling of the world spinning for about a minute and may leave you feeling nauseous and off-balance. Taking a pill for this will simply make those feelings go away but will not treat what is truly causing the problem. 

BPPV is a result of a problem in the inner ear, which is made up of three semicircular canals filled with fluid. Under normal circumstances, when your head moves, the fluid moves and pushes on a membrane that is weighted with calcium crystals. When this happens, a signal is sent to your brain telling it which way the head is moving so your vestibular system can correct your eyes and keep you from feeling off-balance. In BPPV, those crystals have come loose from the membrane and are now free-floating in the fluid filled canals (say that five times fast). Having those crystals free-floating results in your brain getting mixed signals when you move your head, causing you to feel like the world is spinning. Taking a pill does not make these crystals move back to their correct position, but fortunately, there are simple and easy head movements that can correct BPPV. Since there are potentially three different canals that the crystals can be floating in, BPPV requires an evaluation by an Audiologist or a properly trained Physical Therapist to determine which movements are appropriate for your symptoms. These movements are referred to as Vestibular Rehabilitation, and when administered correctly, they can result in immediate relief, no pills needed!

While BPPV is one of the leading causes of vertigo, there are still many other causes that can be more serious and require further medical attention. If you are experiencing vertigo or dizziness, I encourage you to consult your primary care physician or an Audiologist.  Ask questions and be informed about the proper treatments available.

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