What is vertigo?
An episode of vertigo is something that many people suffer from, especially as they grow older. Vertigo is what is described as the illusion of movement while the head and body are actually motionless. You may think you are falling, or staggering, tripping or walking «on clouds», or more often, that the room you are in is spinning. The condition may be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting. Even though vertigo is a symptom which is particularly annoying, most of the time it is not dangerous and with proper therapy, as well as patience, it can be successfully treated by your doctor, who will ask you to do some tests in order to be sure there is nothing more serious behind it.
What causes vertigo?
In the interior of our ear there is a small space that is full of fluid (the labyrinth). This contains a sensitive mechanism which helps us understand the movements of our head and body. The messages from the labyrinth are transmitted to the brain which informs us if and how we move, even when we have our eyes closed.
One of the most common causes of vertigo is when this mechanism does not function effectively, and as a consequence, even though our head is still, our brain believes that we are moving. This is in contrast with the messages which the eyes and the rest of the body are giving. In the end, this confusion results in the unpleasant condition of vertigo.
Αnother cause of vertigo may be an insufficient supply of blood to the labyrinth. This may occur in many conditions such as atherosclerosis, spasm of the blood vessels in the labyrinth, anaemia, and so on. Vertigo may also be due to viral infections, problems with the hormones of the thyroid gland or an inflammation of the labyrinth. More rarely, it may be due to a tumor or other brain disease. This is why an examination by a specialist is necessary to rule out this possibility, no matter how minor it is.
What should I do?
There are certain things that you can do so as to avoid occurrences of vertigo, or at least make them less frequent and serious.
Ιf you suffer from vertigo, follow these suggestions:
Stop drinking alcohol,
Reduce your intake of salt,
Don’t overtire yourself,
Remember that anxiety exacerbates vertigo,
Don’t make sudden movements of the head,
Don’t get up too quickly from bed.
The primary goal of the medication that your doctor will prescribe is to cure the cause of your vertigo. So do not be disappointed if you do not see any improvement straight away. It takes a little time before it starts to take effect.
Lastly, there are certain exercises that help vertigo sufferers to develop some sort of endurance to cope with the condition. These exercises must begin as soon as possible in the day, even when you are still in bed. They are to be done at least three times a day, and they should not last more than 5 minutes all together. They should be carried out in groups (A, or B, or C, or D) depending on the stage of your recovery.
Exercises for vertigo.
A. Beginning in bed.
1. Eye movement.
Slow to begin with, then faster:
a) Upwards then downwards,
b) From side to side,
c) Fix your attention on your finger approaching your face from 1 metre away.
2. Head movement.
Slow to begin with, then faster:
a) Bend forward then stretch backwards.
b) Turn from side to side.
- Repeat the movements you did in bed,
- Twisting movement of the whole body,
- Bend over so you touch your toes.
- Repeat the exercises you did in bed.
- Make twisting movements of your whole body,
- Lie down then get up, first with your eyes open then with your eyes closed,
- Throw a ball from one hand to the other keeping your hands at eye level and keeping your eyes on the ball.
- Repeat the same movements with the ball but this time with your hands the level of your knees.
D. Move around
- Up and down the length of the room, first with your eyes open then closed.
- Up and down stairs,
- Around a person while throwing a ball to each other,
- Play any game that forces you to make various movements. This is the best exercise and it protects against relapses of vertigo.
(The last exercises are done when you are completely well.)