By Gina Morton, The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.
While many people suffer on a daily basis by periods of dizziness or feeling like the room is spinning, medical officials assure the treatment is painless and easy.
"Vertigo is not a condition, it is not a disease," said Jeff Walter, director of the Otolaryngology Vestibular and Balance Center at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where he sees about 40 patients a week. "It's feeling like you're on a carousel but you haven't bought a ticket; like you're rotating, but you're not."
Ninety percent of the time someone experiences vertigo it is vestibular, Walter said, or in the area of the ear's motion detector. The most common is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Gravity sensors awry
According to Janine Fee, a physical therapist certified in vestibular rehabilitation at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, calcium carbonate particles in the inner ear are gravity sensors that tell you where you are in space.
"They break off and, if dislodged, can move into the canals," she said, mentioning the particles send a message of how fast one is moving. "When you're lying down, rolling over, looking up, the crystal moves and mis-signals to the brain a sense of spinning."
The sensation lasts about 30 seconds to one minute before calming. It only happens when the individual moves their head -- if they remain inactive, it doesn't affect them.
"It affects you when the position is provoked," Walter said. "Once you're up, you're OK."Vertigo is often genetic and can be experienced after a trauma, from an inner ear infection, migraines or Menieres disease. One can experience it even by simply sleeping on one side.The biggest complaint from patients is feeling off-balance, Fee said, especially in older patients. Spinning is experienced but not constant.Diagnosis and treatmentMedical officials determine the diagnosis by eye movements. "It affects your everyday activities," Fee said, "reaching the cupboard, tieing a shoe, hanging laundry."To diagnose, a patient will wear infrared goggles with a camera inside that record eye movements as the patient is laid back. Abnormal eye movements determine what the disorder is."You look for specific patterns," Walter said. "Abnormal eye movements are the window to your inner ear function."The eyes will also indicate if it is not an ear problem and if a specialist is required to diagnose.Vertigo can be easily treated by simple head maneuvers that would direct the crystal out of the canal and back into its original location.Usually only one treatment is necessary.But even with successful treatment, it recurs in one-third of patients after one year and in 50 percent of all patients treated after five years.
Fee provides patients with at-home exercises to do to keep the symptoms away. She sees an average of 15 to 20 patients a week.There are no medications to treat vertigo.Both Fee and Walter encourage those who are suffering from the illness to seek help. In the end, it may be well worth it."Many patients," Fee laughed, "say, 'it's a miracle!'"var ranNum = Math.round(Math.random()*1000000); document.write('http://content.yellowbrix.com/images/content/cimage.nsp?ctype=full_story&story_id=145387536&id=thirdage&ip_id=McClatchy-Tribune+Business+News&source_id=The+Daily+Item&category=Healthcare&random=' + (ranNum));pageTracker._setCustomVar(5, "Section", "YellowBrix", 3);