Do You Feel Dizzy?
You know what it feels like to be dizzy. You might panic a little, get nauseous, and feel like you’re going to vomit, become sweaty, and think you might topple over so you grab onto something stable. But how do you know whether that feeling is just something unpleasant or something more serious?
4 Types of Dizzy
Of the four types of dizziness – vertigo, lightheadedness, presyncope (usually a cardiovascular condition), and disequilibrium – the most common is vertigo, which accounts for 54 percent of reports about dizziness in primary care.
Put another way, vertigo – the word comes from the Latin vertō, or a whirling or spinning movement – has a specific feeling of movement. With vertigo, you feeling movement, whether that comes from your body (swaying or other movement), your environment, or both.
“Sometimes associated with states of dizziness, mental confusion, nausea, motion sickness, or general weakness (in more severe cases), vertigo typically results from a sudden change in the functioning of the balance mechanisms of the inner ear (technically, the vestibular system) or in the balance structures’ connections to the brain,” says Pavel Kotlykov, founder of Vertigotreatment.org.
Vertigo comes in several types, and classifying them can get complicated. For here, let’s divide them as either peripheral or central vertigo, depending on location. When vertigo attacks, it can last seconds, or minutes (as in vestibular paroxysm), or hours (as in Menière’s disease or vestibular migraine). However, severe vertigo can last days or weeks with conditions like vestibular neuritis.
However long vertigo lasts, that feeling becomes deeply discomforting and debilitating.
Vertigo is more common than you might imagine. Epidemiological surveys find 20 – 30 percent of the population may have experienced vertigo or dizziness in their lifetime. In fact, vertigo or dizziness accounted for 2.5 percent of American emergency department visit in 1995 –2004.
Once you hit 60, your chance of experiencing vertigo reaches 30 percent, and experts argue that number will rapidly increase (since more of us are living longer). Dizziness can trigger falls, the leading cause of accidental death in people over 65. It can also lead to hip and wrist fractures.
Vertigo: A Symptom Itself, Not a Disease
Vertigo is actually a symptom of a wide range of disorders, not a disease. “Vertigo is not a single disease entity but the cardinal symptom of different diseases of varying etiology; these may arise from the inner ear, brainstem, or cerebellum or may be of psychic origin,” researchers say in one review.
That can make diagnosing and treating vertigo incredibly challenging. “Experience has shown that the affected persons often make an odyssey of visits to physicians belonging to various specialties, beginning with their family physicians and proceeding through ENT specialists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, internists, and orthopedists, before the correct diagnosis is made and the appropriate treatment is begun,” say Michael Strupp and Thomas Brandt, both MDs.
The most common diseases that lead to vertigo – in about 93 percent of primary care patients – in fact, are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), acute vestibular neuronitis, and Ménière’s disease. Other causes of vertigo include drugs, alcohol and antidepressants, migraine, and multiple sclerosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Vertigo
Vertigo symptoms include headache and dizziness. Depending on type, vertigo might also trigger ear pressure, hearing loss, nausea, vomiting, loss of vision, slurred speech, or loss of consciousness.
Understanding these and other symptoms becomes crucial because they can help addressing the underlying problem so you get appropriate treatment.
Understanding the Vertigo Symptom Reveals the Vertigo Problem
If you feel a very rapid or irregular heartbeat, for instance, cardiac arrhythmia might be the issue. If symptoms occur only with positional changes (like turning over in bed), BPPV is the most likely cause. A recent viral upper respiratory infection could precede acute vestibular neuronitis or acute labyrinthitis. Significant stress, anxiety, or panic attacks associated with vertigo can point to hyperventilation as a cause. One recent study found potential vertigo occurrence following sleep apnea.
Causes of vertigo can differ in older people, including more nonspecific dizziness and instability, making diagnosis more difficult within this demographic.
That’s why you want to be very specific about symptoms: They can help a healthcare professional find the underlying cause, determine what type of vertigo you have, and treat it appropriately.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
The most common diagnosis of vertigo in both primary care and subspecialty settings is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). With BPPV, some calcium carbonate crystals normally embedded in gel in your utricle become dislodged and migrate into one or more of your 3 fluid-filled semicircular canals.
These crystals shouldn’t be there, and when particles accumulate in one of the canals, they interfere with normal fluid movement that these canals use to sense head motion. That interference causes your inner ear to send false signals to your brain.
“In Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) dizziness is thought to be due to debris that has collected within a part of the inner ear,” says Tim Hain, MD. “This debris can be thought of as ‘ear rocks,’ although the formal name is otoconia. Ear rocks are small crystals of calcium carbonate derived from a structure in the ear called the utricle… The utricle may have been damaged by head injury, infection, or other disorder of the inner ear, or may have degenerated because of advanced age.”
BPPV creates brief dizziness episodes of various intensity, usually triggered by specific changes in the position of your head, such as when you move your head up or down, when you lie down, or when you turn over or sit up in bed. Symptoms of BPPV besides dizziness include nausea, vomiting, and unsteadiness that can increase your chance for falls.
BPPV has a lifetime prevalence of 2.4 percent and accounts for eight percent of people with moderate to severe dizziness or vertigo. About 90 percent of those cases occur in the posterior canal.
Fortunately, BPPV is the easiest type of vertigo to treat, and except for falls, the condition is (as the name implies) benign.
Vertigo: What You Need to Know When Going to the Doctor
With vertigo, you don’t want to self-diagnose yourself with BPPV or another condition. If you suspect that you have vertigo, visit your doctor to rule out other types of dizziness or lightheadedness, determine what type you have (if you do have vertigo), and discuss effective strategies to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Determining whether you have vertigo or another type of dizziness takes some reflection. In order to make the right diagnosis, your doctor will probably ask:
- What major symptom triggered the onset?
- How long did it last?
- How severe was it?
- Where their other symptoms that occurred at the same time?
- Do you have a history of ear pain, drainage, ear trauma, ear infections, and/or head trauma?
- Does anyone in your family have vertigo and/or hearing loss?
- Do you have other health problems, such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, atherosclerosis, or neurologic disorders?
- Are you taking any medications or were you during your first experience with vertigo?
Depending on your doctor’s approach, treating vertigo may include a combination of medication, physical therapy, and psychotherapy. Rarely, it might require surgical treatment.
To determine whether you have vertigo and if so, what kind, your doctor might conduct neurological, head and neck, and cardiovascular exams. Doctors might also use lab testing (including glucose testing and thyroid function) to determine vertigo. The Dix-Hallpike maneuver, which experts believe might be the most helpful test to perform on patients with vertigo, has a positive predictive value of 83 percent and a negative predictive value of 52 percent for the diagnosis of BPPV.
If you suspect you might have vertigo, please don’t go online and search for a vertigo cure. Consult a healthcare practitioner. Vertigo could be a symptom of a very serious, potentially life-threatening underlying cause. The good news is that your doctor may be able to offer treatment for vertigo without being referred to other specialists.
Treatment for Vertigo
Treatment for vertigo depends on what type you have. If you have BPPV, certain actions your doctor might discuss can move the calcium crystals that cause the problem out of your ear canal. That should bring relief. Your doctor might also prescribe vertigo medication, such as diuretics or anti-dizziness medications. Balance therapy might also help reduce the reduce dizziness from inner ear conditions including vestibular neuritis.
Vertigo, Spinal Care, and Chiropractic
Chiropractic care is another way to help manage symptoms of vertigo. This might include various chiropractic techniques and therapies, including spinal adjustments, flexion distraction, soft tissue therapy such as myofascial release, and other spine care methods.
While working with your physician, visiting a chiropractor can provide the perfect complementary care that may help you while dealing with vertigo. Chiropractic care focuses on the central nervous system and the structures that surround it, including your spine and its structure.
Your inner ear contains fluid and allows the brain to monitor movement and maintain balance. The chiropractic doctrine lends that when the structure of your upper cervical area becomes misaligned, added stress may occur to the ear canal and structures surrounding it, not only due to mechanical stress, but stress upon the neural tissue affected by upper cervical subluxation. That pressure makes it nearly impossible for your brain to communicate effectively with your body.
This upper cervical area has always been the focus of chiropractic care. A 2006 article in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research finds a link between upper cervical trauma or injury and the onset of vertigo. When injury to that area becomes reduced or removed, the symptoms of vertigo decrease or disappear.
Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T., recommends patients seek chiropractic care to help many different conditions: hypertension, vertigo, heart palpitations, tinnitus, and more.
Chiropractic doesn’t cure or treat the condition of vertigo. Rather, it may address stress in the upper cervical spine or elsewhere in the spine to best enable the body to heal itself and function normally.
Whether you’re dizzy yet or not, a chiropractor can analyze the health and position of your spine, take X-rays, and perform spinal adjustments and other techniques to improve your spine’s health. Ultimately, the best examples of spinal correction occur through a combination of spinal adjustment and home care.
At-home, Self-management of Vertigo
Once you’ve been diagnosed with vertigo, you’ll want to do everything you can to effectively manage it to minimize its recurrence. While your healthcare team can provide additional strategies, these can you effectively manage vertigo:
- Eat a diet that balances blood sugar. Blood sugar fluctuations – triggered by processed, sugary foods and drinks but also less-obvious suspects including alcohol – can exacerbate dizziness and other vertigo symptoms. Research shows reducing intake of unhealthy fats and carbohydrates while increasing fiber can stabilize triglycerides and minimize harmful effects on the inner ear. A whole, unprocessed diet with plenty of high-fiber plant foods, including leafy and cruciferous vegetables, as well as berries and legumes, makes a great way to stabilize your blood sugar and provide the nutrients your body needs to thrive. Our Core and Advanced Nutrition Plans follow these guidelines.
- Focus on anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods. Researchers find that patients with vertigo have lower antioxidant levels. In addition to plant-based foods, eat an antioxidant-rich diet by getting more omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught seafood, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
- Manage stress and other emotions. Studies show stress and vertigo go hand in hand. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to experience an episode of vertigo or even worry about your vertigo, which can exacerbate stress and anxiety. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can learn to manage it. Try relaxing, meditation, deep breathing, or whatever helps you lower stress levels.
- Try supplements. A number of herbs can provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other benefits that can ameliorate the symptoms of vertigo. Among the most well-studied herbs to address vertigo include:
MaxLiving has an effective, quality curcumin supplement and a superfood green powder that provides numerous antioxidants, fiber, and immune-boosting ingredients, including ginger root. Look for Curcumin C3® Complex with BioPerine® and Max Greens.
- Curcumin– 500 mg twice daily
- Cayenne – 300 mg twice daily
- Ginkgo biloba – 60 mg twice to three times daily
- Ginger root – 500 mg twice daily (with a strong cup of ginger root tea twice daily said to be quite effective as well).
- Exercise regularly. Researchers found a home-based exercise program worked better than the medication betahistine for patients with persistent or chronic vertigo.
Depending on your health status, you might try an elliptical machine, brisk walking, or weight training. Yoga makes a great exercise to strengthen balance, improve blood flow, and positively impact your sympathetic nervous system.
Overall, vertigo can be a frustrating and scary health condition, but by working with a healthcare practitioner, a chiropractor, eating the right nutrients, and performing some simple lifestyle strategies, you can manage your vertigo and possibly get rid of it completely.