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What Causes Vertigo?

If you have ever played the childhood game where someone spins you, and continues to do so until you fall down, then you have experienced vertigo. You may recall sitting on the ground and feeling the entire world spinning around you. Basically, vertigo is a sensation of whirling and a loss of balance caused either by issues affecting the inner ear, or the brain and cranial nerves. When vertigo stems from issues involving the inner ear it is known as “peripheral vertigo”. The other type, known as “central vertigo”, is caused by either a disease or injury to the brain such as: head injuries, illness or infection, multiple sclerosis, migraines, brain tumors, and strokes. As you can see, there are many causes, and treatment depends on identifying the source of the condition.

By far the most common type of vertigo is peripheral, and in that category BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) is the most prevalent. In BPPV the little crystals in the inner ear shift out of position and give the person confusing information about where they are in space. The result will be that they feel the world spinning around them and they may also experience nausea, vomiting, involuntary eye movements (nystagmus), and sweating. The good news about BPPV is that a simple and noninvasive procedure known as the “Epley maneuver” can be done in a doctor’s office. At Optimal Spine & Posture we have helped many patients with BPPV by performing the Epley maneuver, and also by instructing patients on how to prevent it from recurring. It should also be noted that sometimes misalignments in the upper neck will create significant alteration in the balance and righting mechanisms and can contribute to peripheral vertigo. When a patient suffers with vertigo, we evaluate for the presence of BPPV, and also for upper cervical mechanical issues that may be contributing or altogether causing the vertigo.

Other forms of peripheral vertigo are possible with viral infection, middle ear bacterial infection, and inflammation of the nerves coming into the ear. Ménière’s disease is another source of peripheral vertigo. This variant causes not only symptoms of dizziness, but is also sometimes accompanied by hearing loss. This condition has no known cause, but it is thought that stress and nutritional factors such as excessive salt consumption, or drinking caffeine and alcohol, can exacerbate the condition. We have also seen that anything which increases pressure in the middle ear, such as allergies and food sensitivities, can make such conditions worse.

Patients can present with vertigo that stems from more central causes such as the brain and cranial nerves. We fully evaluate our patients to identify whether the source of your vertigo is peripheral or central and, if the latter is the case, we refer you for additional evaluation. As a note of caution, strokes can also be a source of central vertigo. Be aware that, in the event of a stroke the person will also experience such things as slurred speech (dysarthria), difficulty walking (ataxia), weakness in a limb, and numbness and tingling. If you experience symptoms such as these, you should get emergency help right away.

For those who suffer with vertigo, the symptoms can be nothing short of disabling. At Optimal Spine & Posture we have seen, evaluated, and helped hundreds of patients with vertigo. If you, or a family member, suffer with vertigo, then do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

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