Vertigo What Causes it and How to Alleviate It
If you wake up in the morning and see the room spinning around and feel seasick even though you are not on a boat, there’s a good chance that you are suffering from vertigo. The whirling sensation makes it difficult for vertigo sufferers to walk straight, drive a vehicle, sit upright, or even roll over in bed. Being in this constant state of dizziness could lead to nausea and vomiting.
According to the University of California San Francisco, nearly 40 percent of adults in the United States will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, many will experience vertigo on a recurring basis. Vertigo can last from a few minutes to a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the episode. While vertigo is not a life-threatening illness, the inner ear disorder can cause complications that may require medication or surgery.
In any instance, a vertigo attack simply causes misery to those who have it.
What Causes Vertigo?
A variety of disorders can trigger vertigo, but doctors may not be able to diagnose a specific cause, especially in older adults who have multiple chronic illnesses.
Nonetheless, some of the most common causes of vertigo include:
- Viral and bacterial labyrinthitis (inflammation in the inner ear)
- Meniere’s Disease (fluid imbalance in the inner ear)
- Migraine headaches
- Vestibular neuritis (inflammation of the nerves in the ear associated with balance)
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (caused by a change in position of the head)
In addition, a stroke, tumor or a blow to the head can cause dizziness.
No matter what condition causes the attack, vertigo sufferers experience some of the same symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, loss of balance or a feeling of fullness or pressure in the head.
Many Older Adults Suffer from Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
According to the Cleveland Clinic, about half of adults over 65 years old experience a Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) episode. Generally, BPPV is caused when small calcium carbonate crystals located in the utricle (an organ in the inner ear) become detached and move around in the inner ear canals. The crystals help the utricle detect movement
The detached crystals can send the wrong signals to the brain about a person’s position. For example, a person may be in a fixed position (for instance, sitting in a chair) but may feel that the room is spinning because of the incorrect signals the crystals sent to the brain. What’s more, any type of head movement, like bending the head forward or moving the head backward, can make a person with BPPV feel worse.
Without a doubt, BPPV can limit older adults from doing physical exercises that require a full range of motion, such as yoga, neck rolls (dropping the head to the chest and rolling the head in a circular motion) and sit-up exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Vertigo can also limit an older adult’s daily living activities and mobility. Losing one’s balance and falling or stumbling or bumping into walls is a constant fear in older adults with BPPV.
Older Adults with Vertigo May Need In-Home Care
Vertigo caused by BPPV or other conditions can result in older adults falling and suffering broken bones. And, bone fractures can prevent older adults from properly caring for themselves and interrupt their daily routine. In-home caregivers, however, can give older adults the support that they need to remain in their homes while recovering from their condition.
FCP Live-In caregivers, for instance, can help older adults manage the imbalance caused by dizziness. This alleviates an older adult’s fears about falling while walking to the bathroom or getting out of bed or standing in the shower.
With a caregiver’s help, vertigo sufferers can also get assistance in managing their prescription medications. What’s more, when dizziness prevents older adults from driving, caregivers are available to take them to medical appointments. Caregivers also help with light housekeeping so that vertigo sufferers do not have to worry about maintaining a clean home since bending over to do laundry, make beds or dust could worsen the condition.
Different Treatments for Vertigo
Vertigo is treatable once an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) diagnoses the condition. Doctors have several methods of diagnosing vertigo, including hearing and balancing tests that include testing eye and head movements. Besides that, older adults who had a stroke or a blow to the head may undergo an MRI or CT scan as ordered by a doctor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors may prescribe antihistamines to relieve nausea and dizziness. People with Meniere’s disease may be prescribed diuretics, like water pills, that release water, and sodium to reduce pressure caused by fluid buildup. A well-known treatment for BPPV is the Epley maneuver, a procedure that repositions the head to allow loose crystals to return to the utricle. The Epley maneuver is usually performed by an otolaryngologist, audiologist or a specially trained physical therapist. Patients can also be taught how to do the maneuver so they can do the procedure at home.
Generally, vertigo is a temporary condition that can disrupt a person’s life. However, vertigo that returns in a short period of time can indicate a more serious health condition that warrants a visit to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
For more information about how FCP Live-In’s in-home caregivers can assist older adults with vertigo, contact the agency at 866-559-9492.