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My World is Spinning!

Wow. It’s surprising how quickly something can completely take over your life, wreak havoc, cause you to make all manner of adjustments, and then when it is over, you can easily forget it happened. Such was the case with me and vertigo.

About five years ago, I was just going about my daily tasks and inexplicably, the room started spinning. I felt so dizzy. I grasped the nearest stationary object to keep from falling and then immediately sat down. Whoa! What was that?! I was concerned but thought maybe I was dehydrated or that the dizzy episode was related to hypertension. I didn’t understand why hypertension would be the cause. While I do have hypertension, since my initial diagnosis years ago, I have been super vigilant about making sure it is well managed. I get glowing reports from my physician during my annual exams and I check it at home faithfully. After checking my blood pressure, I was concerned, but figured it was an isolated incident. Sadly, it was not.

At that time, I really didn’t know what vertigo was. I learned that vertigo is a condition that causes you to experience the sensation that everything around you is spinning. Vertigo is usually caused by a problem in the inner ears which is where organs that control our balance is located. (See: Vertigo can sometimes result from a situational event (such as a carnival ride) or it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Other causes of vertigo may include:

  • benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – where certain head movements trigger vertigo

  • migraines – severe headaches

  • labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection

  • vestibular neuronitis – inflammation of the vestibular nerve, which runs into the inner ear and sends messages to the brain that help to control balance

Scary stuff. I was afraid to drive or fly anywhere. When the room is spinning, you can’t really manage everyday tasks or engage in routine activities because, well the room is spinning, and you desperately need it to stop. Even when you walk on a level surface or sit upright, you feel like you are constantly falling. My life at that time was scary and unpredictable. I once had to lay down on the sofa at work and ask a colleague not to allow anyone to disturb me as I tried to steady myself to get home. I couldn’t drive myself home. After this episode, I realized the dizziness was not going away. I made an appointment with my doctor. After I answered her questions and endured a physical exam, she told me I had vertigo.

I did some research on vertigo and its causes and I determined that mine started after a recent root canal. Unfortunately, that was also around the time that my husband was working out of state. It’s possible that my body was reacting to that stress as well. By this time, I was concerned that vertigo would be a permanent part of my life and the best I could hope for was to develop tools to manage its impact on my life.

Fortunately, my doctor was relentless and continued to probe for answers. She referred me to a physical therapist. By the time I went to see the therapist, I had been dealing with vertigo for about two months. I wasn’t hopeful the issue would be resolved by seeing the therapist but went anyway. The therapist asked lot of questions about my life and activities. During this questioning she was just inches from my face. I was a bit taken aback by her proximity and probing but answered every question. When she finished she had me lay on a table and rotated my head to various positions. She was manipulating my head so fast I felt even more unstable. (Quite frankly, I was wondering if my physician had sent me to a quack!) When she finished, she showed me a video of my exam. At first on the screen, when she rotated my head, my eyes looked normal; however, at one point during the exam when she rotated my head, I looked like I was in significant distress. My eyes looked like expressions that you see in a horror movie. My eyes were casting about wildly from one direction to the next. The therapist told me that the crystals in my inner ear had become dislodged and her rotations of my head was an attempt to get them back in place. I saw her twice more and then the vertigo was gone.

A few people that I know told me about this treatment (the Epley maneuver). While this procedure does not work for everyone I am most thankful that it worked for me. I have not had an episode since that day. (Although I was warned by my doctor that it could happen again.) While I may occasionally forget that this happened to me, when I am reminded of that time, I remember how very scary it was and know that I am indeed one of the fortunate ones.

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