In the last few months I’ve seen a steep increase in the number of people experiencing the symptom of dizziness/vertigo. Epidemic! Most of those cases were tracked down to viral causes but it made me think that it would be helpful to just write this set of cases up, so here goes. . .
Using the proper terminology when discussing dizziness with your doctor could mean saving time and money with regards to the amount of tests needed to figure out the core cause of your symptom.
Let me give you a few examples of proper terminology.
- It has always bothered me when a client says they have a temperature instead of a fever (everything has a temperature—even a dead body!)
- A man has a prostate gland not a prostrate gland. Prostrate means to lay down on a horizontal surface.
- Vomiting vs. regurgitation: When a cat vomits it looks watery and green, when they puke up a loaf-looking thing of undigested food that is called regurgitation. Big differences. Different treatments. Regurgitation is usually associated with food allergies to grains, so often you can bypass all kinds of expensive tests and just get a grain-free food.
- In this article you’ll learn that dizzy, lightheaded and vertigo are symptoms. They aren’t diseases. There are many types of vertigo. Then we’ll add in Meniere’s disease and Old Dog Vestibular syndrome.
So, first we’ll go through some definitions, then some symptoms, then some medical treatments (some of which you can do at home and there are links to youtube videos for these) and then we’ll list some natural treatments. I use the list of treatments to muscle test and determine what exactly will work for you when you are a client of mine, but there should be no harm done to your body to try some of these out before you take that step.
Dizziness is defined as a disturbed sense of relationship to space: a sensation of unsteadiness with a feeling of movement within the head. Dizziness is more common in the 40-60 age category as a general rule.
Lightheadedness is the faint feeling which can precede fainting (syncope or passing out). Lightheadedness often goes away or improves when laying down. It can be associated with nausea or vomiting. Lightheadedness is usually not serious and is momentary and caused by a decrease in blood pressure, a decreased blood flow to the head and it is often associated with postural or orthostatic hypotension (getting up too quickly not giving enough time for the baroreceptors in the vessels to respond to the difference in heights). Lightheadedness can also result from allergies, colds, flu, genetic predisposition, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, hyperventilation, anxiety/stress, tobacco/alcohol/illegal drug use, excess bleeding (heavy menses, occult bleeding), cerebellar hemorrhage, heart arrhythmias, some medications or decreased blood glucose.
Vertigo: The sensation that your surroundings are moving when they are not. Vertigo is accompanied by whirling, spinning, falling or tilting, lack of balance, trouble walking/standing and can be annoying or worse, life altering. It can be associated with nausea or vomiting as well. Vertigo is a symptom, not a disease. Vertigo can be classified many ways including:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Central Vertigo
- Migraine-Associated Vertigo
- Objective vertigo
- Peripheral vertigo
- Psychogenic vertigo
- Subjective vertigo
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is a type of vertigo is more common in women and can be associated with decreased cognitive function, facial muscle weakness. Tiny calcium particles (canaliths or “ear rocks”) clump in in the canals of the inner ear preventing the ear from communicating correctly to the brain when it comes to balance.
Central Vertigo involves disturbances of the brainstem or cerebellum involving the sensory messages to and from the brain thalamus. The most common cause of central vertigo is the migraine headache.
Migraine-Associated Vertigo is characterized by head pain with symptoms associated with vestibular impairment such as dizziness, motion intolerance, spontaneous vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, tinnitus, imbalance, and spatial disorientation.
Objective Vertigo is where your surroundings move around you.
Peripheral Vertigo: Most cases of vertigo fit under this category. Peripheral vertigo is associated with the vestibular labyrinth or semicircular canal (inner ear issues) being affected by viruses, brain/brainstem or cerebellar injuries, stroke, brain inflammation or multiple sclerosis.
Psychogenic Vertigo: Lightheadedness due to anxiety (like in the Alfred Hitchcock movie)
Subjective Vertigo: feels like YOU are moving.
A disease associated with dizziness we should also discuss here is Meniere’s Disease.
Meniere’s Disease is a syndrome usually affecting one ear caused by the buildup of fluid or change in pressure in the ear (endolymphatic hydrops) and is associated with tinnitus and hearing loss or the presence of potassium in the inner ear in a place where it doesn’t belong. Meniere’s can also be caused by inflammation, metabolic disorders, bacterial or viral infections or immune disorders. Triggers can include stress, fatigue, overwork, emotional distress, illness, pressure changes and certain foods (salt, MSG, caffeine). Meniere’s can be preceded by an aura of symptoms such as increased tinnitus, the feeling of uneasiness, imbalance, dizziness and sound sensitivity. Because Meniere’s attacks are unpredictable in nature it is difficult to manage this disease. Finding the core causes are your best bet to prevent symptoms from manifesting.
Meniere’s disease is segregated into three stages ranging from mild to worst. Some unique symptoms which happen after a Meniere’s attack that differentiate Meniere’s from the simple symptoms of dizziness and vertigo include: anger, anxiety, appetite changes, clumsiness, cold sweats, concentration difficulty, fatigue, fear, groping for words, headache, loss of self-confidence, neck aches, palpitations, sleepiness, sound distortion and sensitivity, trembling, unsteadiness, vision difficulties (blurring, bouncing, depth perception, glare intensification), vomiting/diarrhea and worry. You may have noticed these symptoms are associated with quite a few medical challenges.
Inner Ear (Vestibular) Problems: A great example of this would be Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome where your older dog starts circling around and around in the same direction and can’t even eat or drink without falling over. This isn’t the end for your companion. Often the animal can accommodate with your help. Ask your local vet for help. I’ve found that Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome is often associated with the heart as every dog I’ve seen with this in the last 20 years have responded well to Cardio Plus protomorphogen. In veterinary school we learned that it had to do with the inner ear. Be patient. Hold food and water dishes up so the critter can eat without dipping their head down. They will accommodate after a few days.
Symptoms associated with Dizziness/Lightheadedness/Vertigo/Meniere’s:
Symptoms can last from minutes to hours, be sporadic, last sometimes weeks to months and be constant or episodic. Gee, that pretty much covers the whole gambit doesn’t it?
- Decreased level of consciousness
- Diarrhea (associated with Meniere’s)
- Difficulty swallowing or moving the neck
- Facial paralysis
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Hearing loss
- Pulled in one direction
- Slurred speech
- Visual disturbances (double vision or nystagmus)
- Weak extremities
Core Causes of Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Vertigo, Meniere’s:
It has been my experience over the decades that diseases are usually a combination of core causes. Diseases like this may have up to 8-10 core causes. Rooting out these causes can help the client manage or eliminate symptoms. Here’s a list of some core causes associated with Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Vertigo, Meniere’s:
- Acoustic neuroma (tumor pushing against the nerve)
- Acute Mountain sickness (AMS)
- Age (older)
- Alcohol consumption
- Altitude sickness
- Anesthetic residual (post-op)
- Autoimmune diseases: Cogan’s syndrome, Wegener’s granulomatosis, systemic lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Blood clots to the brain
- Brain tumors
- Calcium disorders
- Canaliths (ear rocks)
- Cervical subluxation of C1 or C2 (see your chiropractor for this one)
- Cholesteatoma erosion (skin growth behind the eardrum)
- Circulatory disturbances in the brain
- Drugs: Anti-anxiolytics, Antibiotics (sulfa drugs, metronidazole, anti-tuberculosis drugs, vancomycin, telavancin), Antidepressants, Anti-seizure drugs, Blood pressure medicines can all cause lowered blood pressure which can lead to dizziness, Chemotherapeutic agents, Pain medications, Sedatives/Tranquillizers
- Foods too high in sugar or salt can sometimes trigger Meniere’s
- General anesthesia
- Head/neck injury (skull fracture)
- Hematogenic (leukemia of the labyrinth)
- Herpes zoster oticus (AKA Ramsay Hunt syndrome), an infection inside the ear
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Inflammation of the vestibular nerve from various causes
- Labyrinthitis (vestibular neuritis)
- Medications that cause ear damage
- Medicines- Opiates
- Migraine headaches
- Motion sickness
- Narrowing of the vessels feeding the brain
- Otosclerosis (ear bone arthritis)
- Perilymphatic fistula (a tear in one or both membranes separating the middle and inner ear)
- Prolonged bed rest
- Temporal lobe seizures
- Thyroid disease
- Transient Ischemic Accidents (TIA’s or mini-stroke)
- Vestibular nerve damage
- Viral infections inside the ear
Helpful questions your doctor or practitioner should ask you about your symptoms:
- Are the symptoms increasing in frequency?
- How long do the episodes last?
- Have they become more intense with time?
- How often do they occur?
- Have you had a history of any ear problems recently? In the past?
- Are you on any medications?
- Have you changed anything in your diet?
- Has anyone in your family had similar symptoms?
- What have you noticed triggers the symptom?
- Can you describe the sensation?
- Do you have any allergies?
What if there were and easy fix? You can try this technique first, then if that doesn’t work continue reading:
Tests possibly needed to determine the core cause of Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Vertigo, Meniere’s
- Blood glucose test
- Blood work
- CT Scan
- Ear exam
- Head Impulse Test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh2ojfgbC3I
- Heart rate
- Heart tests (ECG, Holter Monitor, Stress Test)
- Romberg Test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5a4lbmwmOw
- Tilt Table Test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5H5FZTAic7c
- Unterberger’s or Stepping Test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGUNTS_Z2UM
- Videonystagmography or Electronystagmography imaging test for nystagmus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVHbIu_1lD4
Medical Treatments for Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Vertigo, Meniere’s
- Canalith repositioning (special head/body movements to help move the calcium rock) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vajvoa4_wY
- Dix-Hallpike/Epley Maneuvre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59EIKztATiw
- Medications—Tricyclic antidepressants: (Amitryptaline/Elavil)
- Epley Maneuvre (Note that 95% of patients with BPPV get better with this) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZgUx9G0uEs .
- Medications—Anti Anxiety meds (Valium/Diazepam) Phenothiazine (Prochlorperazine injections), Lorezepam (Ativan)
- Medications—Antibiotics: Gentamycin injected into the ear to destroy vestibular tissue
- Medications—Antihistamines: Betahistine HCl (Serc) outside the U.S. for Meniere’s
- Medications—Antinausea: Promethazine (Phenegran/Remsed), prochloroperazine (Compro, Procomp), Meclizine (Antivert, Dramamine, Bonine), Dramamine Less Drowsy (Meclzine HCl/Antivert)
- Medications—Steroids injected into the ear
- Medications—Suppositories: Promethegan
- Surgery: A “dizzy” doctor is called a neurotologist. This type of medical doctor performs vertebral stabilization, bone removal and tumor removal. The goal of surgery is to relieve pressure in the inner ear and to destroy the inner ear and/or vestibular nerve to disrupt the balance information sent to the brain. Yikes!
- Treatment of underlying cause (heart disease, diabetes, or?)
- Vestibular rehab–training the other senses to accommodate—taught by an MD or Physical Therapist
Natural Treatments for Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Vertigo, Meniere’s:
- Acupressure Anti-nausea bracelets (sold at pharmacies)
- Acupuncture (2-3 sessions—works quite well especially when working the liver points)
- Avoiding prolonged head tilt positions (like holding the phone on one shoulder)
- Balance exercises (skipping rope)
- Cranio-Sacral therapy
- Deep breathing exercises to help with relaxation
- Ginger (for nausea, blood pressure, increasing circulation)
- Ginkgo biloba (to increase brain blood flow)
- Guided imagery
- Homeopathics to treat core causes (specific allergies, MSG detox, viral/bacterial components)
- Indian remedies: Almonds, Amla (gooseberry powder), Coriander herb, Lemon peel, Poppy seeds (Khus-khus), Strawberries and Yogurt, Watermelon seeds (these act as a diuretic so I’m assuming watermelon and parsley can also be used)
- Jin Shin Jyutsu (A hands on healing technique)
Helpful Links and References for Dizziness/Lightheadedness/Vertigo/Meniere’s:
- Meniere’s: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163888.php
- Vestibular Disorders Association: http://vestibular.org/
- Old dog vestibular syndrome: http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/vestibular-disease-in-dogs/856
- Home Remedies for dizziness, lightheadedness, vertigo and Meniere’s: www.medindia.net/homeremedies/vertigo.asp#1xzz2uk/zpWNc