Are you feeling dizzy? Q&A with Dr. Barbara Grossman

Posted by Kerrie Denner

The Vestibular Disorders Association hosts Balance Awareness Week, Sept. 16-22, every year to education people about balance disorders. Dr. Barbara Grossman answered some questions about vestibular disorders for us.

What is a vestibular disorder?

The vestibular system is the part of your inner ear that controls balance. Any damage to this organ as a result of injury or disease can cause vertigo (spinning), imbalance or lightheadedness. Our body maintains balance with information from the vestibular system which is located in the inner ear, the visual system and proprioception (touch). Sensory input from these systems is then processed by the brain. A problem with any one of these areas can lead to a balance disorder.

Who does it affect?

Vestibular disorders affect people of all ages. According to the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders, approximately 69 million Americans suffer with vestibular disorders. Although adults are most commonly affected, pediatric vestibular disorders cannot be overlooked.

When should someone seek medical attention?

Some of the most common symptoms of vestibular disorders are vertigo (spinning sensation), lightheadedness, vertigo associated with positional changes, hearing loss and vision disturbances. The degree and severity of any of these symptoms can vary. If you experience any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice.

What are the causes of vestibular disorders?

The most common cause is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). This dizziness occurs suddenly with changes in head position. It occurs when the little crystals (most popularly known as "head rocks") become dislodged in the balance system. It is most often caused by natural degeneration of the inner ear, and head injuries. Meniere's Disease causes severe vertigo with associated hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and fullness in the ears. This condition is caused by a buildup of fluid in the inner ear. Cervicogenic dizziness is a sense of imbalance or dizziness associated with neck problems such as cervical trauma or cervical arthritis. There are others ...

How are vestibular disorders diagnosed?

... Because of the relationship between the inner ear hearing and balance organs, a complete audio logical evaluation and videonystagmography (balance test) may be performed. These tests are performed by a licensed Audiologist. Based on the these results further tests such as an MRI or blood work up may be recommended ...

What are the treatment options?

In many cases, vestibular rehabilitation is a very successful treatment. Evaluation and treatment are performed by a physical therapist who has special training. Tai Chi and Wii video games have been incorporated into balance therapy and have been very successful. There are medications that are suppressants to the vestibular system that can help in acute stages of dizziness. In cases where medical intervention has not been effective, surgery ... may be appropriate. 

Source: AM New York


Accessed 09/18/2013

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