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Vertigo: Fact vs. Fiction

Updated: Mar 4

Do you know the Real Facts? They might surprise you...

If you’re thinking “why should I need to know anything about Vertigo,” it’s much more common and debilitating than you think. In fact, nearly one-third of people over the age of 40 in the U.S., roughly 69 million people, will experience vertigo at least once in their lives. Knowing the difference between fact and fiction is important. Not only will it help you identify if you or a loved one are experiencing vertigo, but it will also help you save time and seek proper treatment. Here we will discuss some of the common myths we hear and provide the real facts to help you and your loved ones.

#1 Fiction: Alfred Hitchcock Got It Right

If you haven’t seen this cult classic movie Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock, we’ll give you a quick rundown but don’t worry we won’t give any spoilers. In the movie, the main character, played by Jimmy Stewart, experiences an unsettling dizziness anytime he looks down from a position of great height. While the effects Hitchcock used were pretty spot on, the main character was not suffering from Vertigo. Instead he was suffering from a condition called acrophobia, which is the fear of heights. The main difference is that the symptoms were not caused by a vestibular disorder. (If you’re not familiar with what that is, don’t worry we’ll touch on that next).

If this word sounds Greek to you, it’s actually Latin – stemming from the word Vestibule, meaning entrance. In this case it is referring to the entrance of your inner ear, called the Vestibular System, which involves vestibular organs and receptors in the non-auditory region of the inner ear. This system contributes to your sense of balance, spatial orientation, and the coordination of movement. Symptoms of vestibular dysfunction include Vertigo (the sensation of movement), dizziness, imbalance, problems concentrating, vision disturbance, and changes in hearing.

#3 Fiction: It can’t be Vertigo if I don’t have any hearing issues

This is a common thing we hear from new patients. While changes in hearing issues can be associated with Vertigo and other Vestibular disorders, it is not required for a diagnosis. In fact, there are a number of different symptoms that one could experience as a result of Vertigo. These include a sense of spinning, dizziness, loss of coordination, headaches, imbalance, and fatigue.

#4 Fact: Tiny Rocks in Your Head May be Causing your Vertigo

Yes, you read that correctly. Deep within your inner ear you have tiny limestone and protein crystals. These crystals/rocks are a major contributor to your sense of balance and the cause for most cases of vertigo. When these little rocks become dislodged and float around, they can produce a very powerful false sense of spinning. Most of us have a few of these rocks floating around in our inner ears, but it’s only when a large clump of more than three or four stones form and get loose that we experience a problem.

#5 Fiction: All Cases of Vertigo are Caused by the Inner Ear

While the inner ear is often the culprit, it isn’t the only thing that can go wrong with your body’s balance system. The brain gathers information from all over, including the joints. Plus, the brain itself has to interpret all the data it is receiving almost instantly so that your body can stay upright and know where the floor and walls are. That’s why vertigo patients have a tendency to fall more often. Wrong or misinterpreted data makes it difficult for the body to keep you upright.

#6 Fact: There are Multiple Triggers for Vertigo

There are a number of different causes and triggers for Vertigo. Some of the more common causes include Meniere’s Disease, inner ear infections, head or neck injuries, strokes, tumors, headaches, and even medicines. If you’re not sure what is causing your vertigo there are a number of tests that we and other professionals can perform to help diagnose the cause and a proper course of action.

#7 (Mostly) Fiction: Vertigo is a lifelong disorder

Most cases of vertigo will go away given time, treatment, and proper prevention. However, there is a far less common type of vertigo called, central vertigo. This type of vertigo stems from the brain and while symptoms vary, some sufferers are unable to walk due to severe imbalance and may have nystagmus (strange, involuntary eye movements). This type of vertigo can be caused by diseases or injuries to the brain, such as multiple sclerosis, tumors, concussions, or strokes. In some cases, this type of vertigo can last for weeks or even the rest of someone's life, especially if they have permanent brain damage.

#8 Fact: Women are Three Times More Likely to Develop Vertigo

Yes, it’s true. Doctors do not know why but women are three times more likely to develop vertigo. Recent research suggests the disparity might be related to bone loss caused by aging, vitamin D deficiency, or the increased frequency of migraines among women.

#9 Fiction: There is No Cure for Vertigo

As we just pointed out earlier, vertigo is often caused by temporary conditions, and these will usually go away as the brain adapts to the changes. However, for more serious cases of vertigo, the sufferer may need treatment, which will depend on the cause of vertigo.

For vertigo brought about by an inner ear infection, antibiotics will bring the inflammation down, relieving pressure from the auditory nerves and eliminating vertigo. For other types of vertigo, rehabilitation and certain physical maneuvers may be used to reposition dislodged calcium particles (the tiny rocks in your head) and strengthen the vestibular system. These therapeutic measures train your brain to withstand the effects of vertigo and prevent debilitating symptoms.

As always, we hope this information leaves you more informed. If you or a loved one are experiencing the symptoms of Vertigo or any Vestibular disorder, feel free to give us a call at (704)752-8100 or click below to sign up for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We’ll be glad to answer any questions and walk you through any options and therapies that may help.



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