Living with vertigo can be incredibly difficult. As well as making you feel dizzy and uncomfortable, it can also get in the way of everyday activities and prevent you from driving. It can also be very hard to convince other people to take your symptoms seriously, as vertigo and dizziness can seem like minor problems to someone who’s never been affected. So what can you do to free yourself from your symptoms?
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness and motion that can make you lose your sense of balance. It feels as if the world is moving, tilting or spinning around you, even when everything is still. Some people get a sense of vertigo when they’re in a moving vehicle or on a funfair ride because the world is moving around them while their bodies are sitting still. However, vertigo can also happen if there is a problem with the balance organs in your inner ear. You can experience vertigo in any time and place if your sense of balance gets confused.
- Symptoms can last for just a few seconds or for hours at a time (in severe cases, vertigo can affect people for even longer)
- The problem often goes away by itself, but you should see a doctor if it doesn’t or if it keeps coming back
- Ask for an urgent appointment if you also have a bad headache, you’re feeling sick or you have a fever too
- If you have double vision, hearing loss, trouble speaking, or you feel weakness, numbness or tingling in your arm or leg then you should go to A&E right away
Possible Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo can happen for many different reasons. If it is associated with other symptoms, it could be a sign of infection or even a stroke. However, in most cases it will be linked to the balance organs in your inner ear.
When you see a doctor about vertigo, they will ask about how and when the symptoms appear. The doctor will want to know if they tend to happen when you’re doing particular activities or if you have any other symptoms or health problems.
You might also need some tests to check on your balance or examine your ears. The test could be as simple as getting you to sit down and then stand up quickly to see how it affects your balance. However, in some cases more specialised tests may be needed to understand what’s wrong.
If the problem is linked to your inner ears then it could be caused by:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo: when tiny particles in the ear affect your balance organs as they move around, often when you change position suddenly
- Ménière’s Disease: an inner ear disorder associated with a build up of fluid, it often causes tinnitus too
- Labyrinthitis: when an infection causes inflammation in the inner ear that affects the nerves carrying messages from the balance organs
Treatments for Vertigo
Vertigo will often go away by itself, but if it is severe or happens regularly then it’s important to see a doctor. An ENT consultant will be able to find out why it is happening and recommend treatments to relieve or manage your symptoms. The best approach will depend on the cause of your vertigo.
Possible treatments for vertigo include:
- Antibiotics to clear bacterial infections
- Repositioning manoeuvres to shift any debris affecting the balance organs
- Medication to relieve associated symptoms like nausea
- Surgery can sometime help, for example if there is an injury or tumour affecting the inner ear
Some kinds of vertigo can be completely cured. For example, if you’re experiencing vertigo because you have an ear infection, it may be possible to prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the cause. However, some conditions that cause vertigo can’t be cured so easily. You may need to find ways to manage your symptoms if they can’t be stopped completely.
You can also do some simple things at home to reduce the effects of your vertigo. When your symptoms appear then you can try:
- Sit down as soon as you start feeling dizzy or off balance. However, try to do it calmly and smoothly so that you don’t make your symptoms worse.
- Lie down in a darkened room if sitting doesn’t help. It should help to relieve the spinning or tilting sensations. Take as long as you need to recover and don’t rush back to work or other activities.
Taking these steps should help to relieve your symptoms so that you feel less dizzy. Taking precautions such as sitting or lying down will also prevent you from hurting yourself by falling over while your balance is bad. You might also want to use a walking stick if you’re worried about falling.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a balance disorder or you’re often affected by vertigo, there are also some simple things you can do to reduce the chances of your symptoms coming back:
- Don’t bend down if you need to pick something up. Use your knees to reach the ground while keeping your head upright instead.
- Try not to stretch your neck, for example when exercising or reaching up to take things from high shelves or cupboards. Choose different activities or ask for help instead.
- Keep your head as stable as possible. Don’t make any fast or sharp movements.
- Always turn the lights on before getting out of bed in the dark. Being able to see will help you to stay balanced when you can’t trust your inner ears.
- Don’t change position suddenly, especially when standing up after sitting or lying down. Use a couple of pillows to keep your head raised during the night and take a moment to pause and sit on the edge of the bed when you get up in the morning.
- Anxiety can make your symptoms worse, so try not to worry too much. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or breathing exercises might help. You can also see your GP or a therapist for help.
Do you have any other tips for managing vertigo?