Do you sometimes feel somewhat dizzy in a way that you or your environment seems to be spinning? The feeling of spinning or falling through space when, in fact, there is no motion?
Well, you might be suffering from vertigo; a subtype of dizziness in which a patient inappropriately experiences the perception of motion (spinning, tumbling, falling forward or backward, or the ground rolling beneath one’s feet ) due to dysfunction of the vestibular system.
The vestibular system detects motion of the head in space and in turn generate reflexes that are crucial for our daily activities, such as stabilizing the visual axis (gaze) and maintaining head and body posture. In addition, the vestibular system provides us with our subjective sense of movement and orientation in space. The vestibular sensory organs are located in the petrous part of the temporal bone in close proximity to the cochlea, the auditory sensory organ.
Hence, when a dysfunction of the vestibular system occurs, the affected person may experience vertigo and describe an illusion of movement which is often associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating as well as a balance disorder which causes difficulty in standing or walking.
In addition, it may be difficult to focus visually, feel disoriented and find it uncomfortable to keep the eyes open during vertigo spells which may last from a few minutes to days, depending on the cause.
Vertigo is not limited to adults alone; it may be present at any age. Its prevalence rises with age and is about two to three times higher in women than in men. It is approximated that 2-3% of emergency department visits is due to vertigo attacks.
Note that vertigo shouldn’t be confused with motion sickness; which involves that feeling of being off-balance and lacking equilibrium, usually caused by repeated motions such as riding in a car or boat.
Beware of repetitive spinning (as in familiar childhood games), or unfamiliar movements (e.g., when the head is held in an unusual position for an extended period) which can induce short-lived vertigo by disrupting the inertia of the fluid in the vestibular system; otherwise known as physiologic vertigo. It is usually easily corrected though; either by moving the head and neck into a more normal position or focusing on an external reference point to give the vestibular system an opportunity to stabilize.
It is possible for those symptoms to be constant or episodic and may be due largely to a movement or change in position.
Check it out; when you feel like you yourself are moving, it’s called subjective vertigo. When it seems like your surroundings or objects in your surroundings are moving, then that is called objective vertigo. When you feel an intensive sensation of rotation inside your head, that could be pseudovertigo.
When should you seek medical care?
Any signs and symptoms of vertigo deserves an evaluation by your doctor to rule out potentially serious or life-threatening causes. Although the majority of cases of vertigo are harmless, it can also be debilitating, as vertigo can be caused by problems in the brain or the inner ear which are very sensitive organs. Fortunately, most causes are easily treated with prescription medication.
When you show certain signs and symptoms listed below, it may require evaluation in a hospital’s emergency department:
- have double vision or other visual disturbances
- have difficulty speaking
- show abnormal eye movements
- has a throbbing headache
- has feelings of weakness
- have hearing loss and a ringing sensation in the ears
- have difficulty in walking or controlling your arms and legs
- have altered level of consciousness, is acting inappropriately
It is necessary to tell the doctor if you or a patient has had any recent head trauma or whiplash injury as well as any new medications being taken recently, as these may have some bearing on diagnosis. Seeking a medical professional’s expertise is relevant because sometimes vertigo is a sign of a serious health condition like stroke.
One doctor friend gave me these tips to prevent vertigo spells – “Do not jump out of bed in a hasty manner upon waking up nor bend suddenly. meaning, refrain from fast or sudden body movements. Get up slowly after lying down or sitting for an extended period, instead of standing right up. When you need to really turn your head to look in a different direction, do so in a controlled and slow manner.
Getting dizzy isn’t always an “it’s nothing.” So watch out for your self-preservation. Don’t get dizzy! Don’t allow that vertigo … to set itself into your life.