Feeling dizzy? Like your head is spinning? U-M expert offers help for vertigo sufferers

2004-12-28 09:46

ANN ARBOR, MI -We've all had that dizzy feeling once in a while. Maybe you felt it when you suddenly stood up after sitting down for a long time. Or when you were looking up to search for something on a top shelf.

Now, imagine what it would be like to feel that dizzy and off-balance for minutes, hours, days or even years. This kind of serious dizziness, called vertigo, makes life miserable for millions of people each year, and keeps some from driving or working. It starts without warning for no apparent reason, and comes and goes.

Many people with vertigo and related balance problems never get effective treatment, or even a firm diagnosis. They may not even seek a doctor's help.

But a University of Michigan Health System expert explains that it doesn't have to be this way. Doctors today understand far more about what causes balance problems, and can offer specialized testing and treatment to help. Anyone who experiences dizziness, especially more than a few times, should see their doctor about it.

"Balance problems are very, very common. Almost everyone in their life will have a balance issue, be it mild or severe," says Hussam El-Kashlan, M.D., medical director of a special U-M center devoted to diagnosing and treating balance disorders. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 7.4 million people each year visit a doctor's office or emergency room for vertigo or dizziness.

"For some people, vertigo can be very debilitating," El-Kashlan explains. "During the acute attack, the person is totally incapacitated. They can't do anything for themselves and they're basically bedridden or lying on the ground until the attack passes. Often it's accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting."

Why does this happen? There are actually many reasons in fact, it's better to think of vertigo as a symptom of a problem, rather than a disease itself, says El-Kashlan.

For instance, high blood pressure, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all cause a fleeting sense of dizziness when someone moves suddenly. Sudden loss of balance can also be a symptom of low blood flow to part of the brain.

Most physicians blame the inner ear for most types of dizziness. That's why doctors who specialize in ear, nose and throat disorders, like El-Kashlan, often treat people with prolonged or severe vertigo.

"People should really seek medical attention for any persisting balance problem," he advises. "If it's a problem of significant magnitude, if they feel that they're falling, if they can't function, or even if they have a minor problem that they didn't have before and that persists for a couple of weeks, they should talk with their primary doctor. And if it persists for longer, they should seek specialized help."

In such cases, a place like the U-M's Vestibular Testing Center, of which El-Kashlan is medical director, can perform advanced diagnostic tests and make a treatment plan that's individualized to each person's vertigo. Medications, physical therapy, at-home techniques and surgery can help.

To understand dizziness, vertigo, and other balance problems, it helps to understand how our bodies keep us balanced in the first place.


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I know a lot of people get "head rush" a lot where when they stand up real fast they get dizzy and what happens to me is even if i am standing already and have been ill lose balance and my vision goes completely black and i literally cannot hear, see, talk and i start to fall but i catch myself every time because i grab on to something RIGHT as everything starts going black. I DON'T KNOW WHY this happens. I get SHARP pains ALL over my head not just in certain areas and even while typing this it feels like there's so much pressure on my head and i cant lay my head back on anything it adds to the pressure. but sitting up I'm dizzy. So it's a lose-lose situation. I also get excruciating pains around my kidneys up to my ribs to my chest and my heart hurts REALLY bad. I don't have medical insurance and I'm only 18 so I don't exactly know what to do or who to contact. Everyone offers me help and then can never help me. I was born with this reflux so i can see how my kidneys would be affected at the moment but the rest of my problems I'm not sure. If someone could please email me at [email protected] and help me that would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you! -Nicki
It is almost inconceivable that the only root causes of ear-related (or other?) vertigo problems are people's behavior and/or natural things like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Pesticide and dioxin exposures are known to cause ear problems, cardio-vascular problems (related to the blood pressure area), and immune damage...for starters. Some such ear problems may be long term effects of fetal damages...also known to be caused by pesticides and dioxins. It was not mentioned in this report if any patients at all were or were not checked for body-burdens of pesticides, dioxins or any possible or likely industrial causes. Science requires integrity; omitting an entire category of suspects is unacceptable.
im a smoker and i keep getting pain in my innner ear and feeling dizzy all the time
My grandma 80 years old is suffering from severe head spins for the past 3 days. Her CT scan, blood tests, cervical spondalities test all appears to be normal. We do not know what is the cause of her head spins.
I get bad head spins just about every 20 minutes, what does this mean?
My elder sister who is having six children getting head spin,feeling omitting,unable to move her head,cnt take proper food.She gets once in a months regularly.Can you please tell me the cause of getting like this problem?
I'm having head spins at night sometimes and then today it started I can't move or do anything else my head starts spinning. How can I stop this please I am epileptic and fell a fortnight ago while having a seizure. Please help
It all started five years ago,that is my head spinning.it is drastically horrible when it caught me,it happens sometimes very slowly and suddenly leads to a very strong spinning that I cant able to stand and have to grab on the ground and sometimes it is very sudden causing the spinning to overload my head and continuous for several hours,sometimes a whole day or even weeks.When it happens,everything suddenly spun round at high speed and I crumpled to the floor or on bed.During the head reeling I cant able to stand or move my head a fraction of angle and even cant able to open my eyes and it persists for several hours or day.In earlier days of its initiation(2009), head reeling happens twice a year but about a short period of time approximately a day max.Later years it happens once a year,duration about a day or even weeks.This year it again happened continuously for a weeks but the condition still persists, though less severely.Even from the mental and physical stress, vigorous exercise like running, walking for a long period and the forceful work cause me the same.and the way it happens is like a stairway to hell.please help me doctor
I have been experiencing this reeling of head from my childhood occasionally. whenever i move my head more frequently from side to side i feel reeling as if everything around me is spinning. it used to go on its own without any medication in one or two days. But now i am experiencing this for the last fifteen days. I went to a neurophysicist and situation has not been improved. i am unable to attend to my daily activities. I went to an ENT and found that it is not BPPV. I am unable to comprehend what is causing it.
I have been experiencing head rotation sensation for about a week. I usually have migraine and a physician who diagnosed me this time concluded this to be a condition of migraine. But it is not curing for the medicine given. I have noted that I get it when I move. When I keep my head still it is minimum. When the spinning keeps for a longer time I feel like to vomit and shivering. I dont feel this when bathing traveling in a vehicle. No help closing eyes while having this.Please help me doctor
Madushika: You may want to speak with your doctor about the possiblity of this being something other than migraine. There is a condition called benign positional vertigo that you can search on the internet that sounds similar to what your are experiencing. The treatment is very different from that of migraine and it is miserable.I am a nurse and am not saying that is what you are experiencing. The fact that your medicines are not helping definitely means you should communicate with your doctor for testing as to the cause of your symptoms and proper treatment. Best to you!
I have migraine associated vertigo, 2 yrs now, please help.