Vertigo is a spinning sensation. The patient usually describes it as the “world spinning”. Sometimes the patient will say the world is still, but they feel like they are spinning. Vertigo is a sensation that for the most part is due to a vestibular problem (inner ear balance problem). When evaluating a new patient with the complaints of vertigo, it is really important to try and get the patient to answer the following question: Does your vertigo last for seconds, minutes, hours or days before the spinning stops? I always try to make it clear that I am talking just about the spinning sensation alone, and not the dizziness, nausea, or imbalance that may follow.
The reason why it matters so much as to how long the spinning sensation lasts is because the duration of the vertigo is different for different diseases of the inner ear system. In the case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, the spinning should last for seconds. In the case of Meniere’s Disease, the spinning can last for hours to days before it stops. The treatment for these two problems is very different.
I just wanted to share this with you so that you can take a minute to really reflect on the pattern of your vertigo, so that when you are talking with your doctor or physical therapist, they are getting the correct information that will help to lead them to the correct diagnosis and treatment for your problem.
Vertigo, painting by Gunther Forg 1988
The New Labyrinth with Black Holes by George Saru, 1996.
Last year I wrote an article for my blog about anxiety and inner ear problems based on the research by Dr. P. Ashley Wackym. It turns out that it has been one of my most frequently visited blog posts! Last October 2015, I saw Dr. Wackym again when we were both attending the 7th International Symposium on Meniere’s Disease and Inner Ear Problems in Rome, Italy. During our discussions, I learned of a recent research article of his that was published in the ENT Journal (Ear, Nose and Throat) that studied people with a type of inner ear problem called Superior Semi Circular Canal Dehiscence (SSCD). This is a condition where the bone between the inner ear system and the brain erodes causing symptoms of imbalance, headache, dizziness, tinnitus, cognitive dysfunction, nausea, subjective hearing loss, visual disturbance, aural fullness, objective hearing loss, hyperacusis, and vomiting.
Although I don’t usually post scientific articles on my blog because I want the information to be easy for the average lay person to understand, for those of you with SSCD, you may find the information interesting… If so, feel free to read Dr. Wackym’s research paper!