Finding Your Balance, With Vertigo

What you should know about vertigo and how to better manage its effects with vestibular disorder treatment.

Ever sat on a ride at an amusement park that left you feeling uncomfortably off-kilter?

The faces around you probably seemed to be spinning, you felt out of balance, and a little sick. You experienced a loss of control and a bit of fear, as you made your way out with shaky legs.  This is just a minor glimpse of what living with vertigo can feel like!

While getting on the same rollercoaster again is a choice, managing vertigo isn’t, and nearly 1 out of 10 people in the world have experienced this vestibular balance disorder and its potentially debilitating effects. However, vertigo treatment, medication and a few other grounding measures can help manage episodes better and bring back a sense of balance and control to your day.

Those who have experienced vertigo, can attest to the fact that it is uncomfortable, at the very least. It can also be very stressful and sometimes impede daily activities and routine –  studies have found that approximately 50% of people reported reduced efficiency at work, around 50% reported hindrance to travel, and about 57% said that it disrupted their social lives. On the heels of ‘Vestibular Disease Awareness Day’, we take a look at how better understanding of the condition and appropriate healthcare can help people move forward from vertigo, with steadiness!

Inner workings: What is vertigo & how long does vertigo last?

The vestibular system is a sensory system located within the inner ear; and is responsible for providing our sense of balance and orientation during movement. Often caused by an issue in the inner ear, vertigo is considered a vestibular balance disorder. Our bodies rely on sensory signals from the inner ear about motion, movement and positioning. A dysfunction in the system affecting the inner ear signals can cause vertigo. Vertigo isn't a disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition.

The most common causes include:

  • An ear infection
  • Inflammation of the vestibular nerve
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) caused by dislocation of loose crystals in the inner ear
  • Irritation and swelling in the inner ear
  • Inner ear conditions like Ménière’s disease

Signs that you may be experiencing vertigo:

  • Spinning sensation
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus – a ringing sound in the ear
  • Vision issues

Vertigo can also sometimes be triggered by sudden head movements or changes in position, stress, lack of sleep and dietary issues as well.

So how long does vertigo last? An episode can last from a mere few seconds to a few days; with severe cases sometimes taking several days to settle.

Balancing act: Vertigo vs. Dizziness

Vertigo is often dismissed as a spell of ‘dizziness’ – however there some key differentiating factors.  Dizziness and vertigo are two very different sensations. Dizziness is a more general term to indicate a feeling of lightheadedness and disorientation. Vertigo is characterized by a ‘spinning’ sensation that feels like everything around you is moving. It is more of an illusion of movement, rather than just a feeling of being lightheaded.

Finding your footing: Vertigo Treatment, Medication & Management

Vertigo can be disheartening since it affects your sense of control and balance, hindering activities we take for granted. Fortunately, there is help at hand that can bring back peace of mind and help you get back to all that you look forward to in daily life!

While vertigo sometimes gets resolved by itself over time, an occurrence of repeated episodes warrants immediate medical attention. If you are wondering about how to cure vertigo, do remember that treatment and management will depend on the root cause. Once diagnosed by your doctor, there are ways and means which your doctor could suggest to treat the underlying condition/s causing vertigo and/or better manage its effects. Your doctor may also prescribe appropriate medication to provide relief from some of the side-effects of vertigo, such as nausea.

Additionally, physical therapy i.e vestibular rehabilitation exercises (under supervision) may be suggested by your doctor to help alleviate symptoms as part of your treatment and management plan. Doctors may consider additional treatment options, such as Canalith Repositioning Procedures or surgery, depending on the type and severity of vertigo and the patient’s other health parameters. 

Stopping the spin: Self-care

Keep a check on potential triggers such as your stress levels and sleep patterns. Do speak to your doctor about such triggers and about dietary modifications – for instance sodium is said to be one the main dietary triggers for vertigo and you may need to limit your salt intake. Curtailing alcohol and caffeine consumption can also help. 

If you are prone to vertigo episodes, here are some other measures you could try:

  • Avoid sudden movements. Sit and stand slowly. 
  • Avoid bending to pick things up and squat instead.
  • Sleep with your head slightly elevated.
  • Mindful movement and exercise (under supervision). 

Vertigo episodes can be overwhelming in a number of ways. Apart from the physical, this can also affect mental and emotional health, and a person’s ability to work, travel, work out or socialize with ease. A better understanding for all that this condition entails, along with vestibular disorder treatment and medication under medical supervision, can help those with vertigo reclaim their quality of life, and rediscover their happy balance. 

Disclaimer: [This OR the above] information is for general awareness and patient education purposes, based on scientific references cited  and is not to be considered as a substitute for doctor’s advice or as recommendations or endorsements from Abbott. Please consult your doctor for more information, diagnosis, prognosis and before starting any medication, exercise, treatment or diet.