Dizziness, unbalance, lightheadedness – the uncomfortable, persistent symptoms of vertigo certainly can put you ill at ease. It’s no wonder Alfred Hitchcock used the disorder as the title of his popular psychological thriller.
Vertigo is a disorder where there is a feeling of motion even when an individual is stationary. Dr. Christopher Hampson of Midwest ENT Consultants – an ear, nose and throat practice with four locations in Chicago’s West Suburbs – says the first step toward solution for vertigo is diagnosis. While there are different types of vertigo, Hampson says the most common type of vertigo is BPPV, or positional vertigo.
“The timing and duration of the vertigo are essential in determining the type of vertigo and its underlying cause,” says Dr. Hampson. “Positional vertigo is only experienced with changes in head or body position, often reproducible and repetitive, and usually only lasts for seconds. Episodic vertigo occurs whether the patient is still or moving and often lasts for hours or days.”
Some patients with vertigo complain about a feeling of “loose rocks” in their head. Positional vertigo is actually caused by microscopic “rocks” or otoconia (small crystals of calcium carbonate) that abnormally migrate into the inner ear canals. When there are specific changes in head position (most commonly when someone is lying down or looking upward at the ceiling), the “rocks” over stimulate the vestibular system – the system that contributes to our balance and sense of spatial orientation.
“Although no specific cause of positional vertigo has been identified, head injury, viral illness and degeneration with age all can potentially cause the ‘rocks’ to dislodge, causing vertigo,” says Dr. Hampson.
Dr. Hampson offers the following suggestions and information to individuals who are experiencing vertigo symptoms:
- Visit Midwest ENT Consultants, so they can give you a complete physical exam, including an ear exam and cranial nerve exam.
- Come prepared to discuss your medical history and current medications, as both are crucial to a proper diagnosis.
- The Epley maneuver is one of the most common and useful ways to treat positional vertigo. In just minutes during an office visit, your ear, nose and throat doctor can perform the Epley maneuver – a simple set of positional maneuvers to settle the “rocks” or otoconia in the inner ear canals – to provide you comfort.
- Medical problems including orthostatic hypotension, arrhythmias, infection and hypoglycemia can cause a sense of dizziness that can be mistaken as vertigo.
- Most medications are not useful in treating vertigo and only suppress the symptoms.
Midwest ENT Consultants physicians see patients in four west suburban Chicago offices: Geneva (Delnor Medical Office Building, 351 Delnor Dr., #310), Naperville (Springbrook Medical Building, 1247 Rickert Dr., #200), Plainfield (Plainfield Edward Medical Building B, 24600 W. 127th St., #130) and Winfield (Central DuPage Hospital, 25 N. Winfield Rd., #519).