Vertigo and Balance Disorders

Vertigo and Balance Disorders

If you're suffering from vertigo or balance disorders, you know that they can appear at any time and cause a multitude of issues. Beyond the feeling of dizziness, vertigo can make it difficult or stressful just doing normal everyday activities. Balance disorders can also lead to serious injuries from falling. Read on to learn more about vertigo, balance disorders, and treatment options.

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo and balance disorders are basically when a person has the feeling that they're moving when they're not. It is one of the more common medical complaints. It can feel similar to dizziness, motion sickness, or like the room is spinning. Sometimes, the symptoms are mild, but when severe, it can make it near impossible to stand or move without falling. Other symptoms of vertigo and balance disorders can include the following:

  • Panic, anxiety, or fear
  • Heart rate or blood pressure changes
  • Feeling like you're going to faint
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea

What Causes Vertigo?

There are two basic categories of vertigo, depending on what is causing the problem. The first category, peripheral vertigo, is caused by a problem within the inner ear or the nerve that connects the inner ear with the brain. The second category, central vertigo, is caused by a problem in the brain, usually within the cerebellum. Issues with the cerebellum can cause vertigo and balance disorders because the cerebellum controls the coordination of movement and balance.

Over 90 percent of vertigo cases are considered peripheral vertigo, and are normally caused by one of the following:

  • Meniere's disease, which is an inner ear disorder.
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, also called BPPV, is a result of calcium crystals developing in the semicircular canals within the ear.
  • Inflammation of the inner ear.

Peripheral vertigo, which is less than 10 percent of vertigo cases, can be caused by the following:

  • Otosclerosis, which is the abnormal bone growth within the ear.
  • Cholesteatoma erosion, caused by a cyst that forms in the inner ear.
  • Perilymphatic fistula, which is the result of abnormal communication between the inner and middle ear.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Vertigo and Balance Disorders

Your ENT specialist will perform a series of tests to determine if you have vertigo, and if so, which kind. These tests can include your ENT specialist watching your eye movement, observing you as you try to balance standing up, or marching in place. Imaging tests may include a CT scan or an MRI.

Treatment will depend on the category and specific cause of your vertigo. Vestibular blocking agents, or VBAs, are one of the more common medications used to treat vertigo. They can include antihistamines, antiemetics, or benzodiazepines.

Other treatment methods can simply involve bed rest, other medications, or specific movements which aim to loosen the calcium crystals and clear them from the inner ear.


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