Vertigo: As The World Turns

Vertigo or dizziness is common for the most of us: in a rollercoaster, after a hangover or during sailing. In most cases it is harmless and it will fade out. But there are situations where the dizziness is so acute and debilitating that further investigation is required. Very important is to exclude serious conditions such as a stroke or Menieres disease.

Many cases of vertigo start in the inner ear. This part consist of three circular tubes which contain fluids. The inner surface of the tubes is covered with minute hairs which are triggered by movement of this fluid. The fluid only moves when we move our head. This is how we know where we are.

The information of the inner ear, position of the upper neck and information of the eyes is transferred to the small brain, and controls the coordination of our muscles. If one of these organs do not function well, it will result in a form of vertigo or giddiness.

One of the least recognized conditions is the so-called Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo (BPPV), a relatively harmless condition, but with large consequences. The forementioned inner ear tubes are the cause. When the fluid contains crystals, it will overstimulate the small hairs and cause vertigo. In the majority of cases it will occur on one side of the head, and will trigger the vertigo in one specific head position (rotation or sideways move of the head to one side). Instant dizziness and nausea is the result.

The only way to relieve this condition is to make sure the crystals are moved away from the small hairs. The most common way to accomplish this is by doing the ‘Epley Maneuver’. A specific treatment where the head of the patient is moved and held in three different positions for 45-120 seconds.

The main objective is to move the crystals, and in most cases one treatment will be enough. Not allways a pleasant way of treating, because it can create at first the dreaded dizziness.

As said, not all dizziness is BPPV. Other parts of the chain (eyes, neck, brain) have to be considered. To do the Epley Maneuver yourself without a proper diagnose is irresponsible. If you recognize the symptoms, visit your doctor or a consultant who is experienced in this condition.

If you would like more information, please contact Bernard Vrijaldenhoven (mob. 91 847 6000) or the International Health Centres in Albufeira (Tel. 289 588 923)