ENT Specialist with Southern Indiana Physicians Explains Vertigo Symptoms

Do you ever feel like the world around you is spinning even when you are standing still? “Vertigo is a symptom of a balance disorder,” explains Paul Johnson, MD, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist with IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians.

“When we say vertigo, we are talking about the sensation of spinning or movement.” Dizziness, sensations of feeling off balance, swaying, or feeling pulled to one direction are all symptoms of vertigo. Vertigo is typically a result of an ear condition balance disorder. “From the ENT perspective, when you have a balance disorder and there’s not vertigo, it’s probably not from your ear,” says Dr. Johnson.

Q: What are the disorders associated with vertigo?

Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV), Meniere’s Disease and Labyrinthitis. BPV is most common. The latter two are inner ear disorders that can cause vertigo. Additional major causes of vertigo are head trauma and neuronitis.

Q: What are the symptoms of each?

Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV) results from problems within your inner ear and causes mild or intense dizziness. Because the disorder is benign, it is not caused by a tumor or disease, nor is it life threatening. The symptoms of BPV increase with movement, therefore it is positional.

Meniere’s disease is a disorder in the inner ear that causes spinning and fluctuating hearing loss. This disease most commonly starts between the ages of 20 and 50. It can result in permanent hearing loss and usually only affects one ear. “Meniere’s disease will have episodes of vertigo and can last from several hours to a day or two,” Johnson explained.

Labyrinthitis: The Labyrinth is the part of the ear that controls your balance. When it becomes swollen or inflamed it causes Labyrinthitis. It can initiate sudden spells of vertigo, causing you to feel like you are spinning. This can result in hearing loss that is temporary.

Q: How common are these disorders?

BPV is pretty common. In fact, around two-thirds of the problems related with the vestibular system that result in dizziness can be credited to BPV. “It’s not uncommon for us to see about two to five people a month with BPV in the office, whereas Meniere’s disease is much less frequent than that,” according to Johnson.

Q: How are they treated?

BPV is treated with physical therapy. “Most BPV patients will get better in as little as one or two sessions,” explains Dr. Johnson. However, Meniere’s disease is chronic and is medically treated with diuretics. Surgeries can be helpful if it is progressive or severe. Additionally, an acute inner ear infection is treated with fluids and anti-nausea and anti-vertigo medicine. Labyrinthitis, with time, can clear up on its own.

Q: Is there a cure?

Every individual is different. A cure for BPV is dependent on the cause, the vestibular system and the extent of the damage to the system. In many cases of vertigo, symptoms tend to dissipate on their own over time.

Q: What can be done to reduce symptoms?

Maintaining a healthy diet and decreasing salt, alcohol and caffeine intake are important to vertigo treatment.  Additionally, medications can be prescribed to decrease symptoms. Exercises can also be done to help reduce vertigo during daily activities. Also, be aware of your surroundings, as losing balance is always possible. Take a seat whenever you feel dizzy to avoid falling and to avoid aggravating the symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your Southern Indiana Physicians primary care provider. If needed, the provider can refer you to the featured expert Paul Johnson, MD.