Friday, July 6, 2012

Persistent Dizziness May Respond to a Few Simple Exercises

When we were kids, many of us had fun spinning on merry-go-rounds or just going in circles to get as dizzy as possible. As we got older, getting dizzy may have been more due to drinking a bit too much alcohol than anything else. But those are episodes where the dizziness faded away when the cause ended or was taken away and that's a good thing, because continuing dizziness - vertigo - is not only uncomfortable, it is very disruptive, and could cause serious injuries if people fall.

It isn't known how many adults experience dizziness, but it is common, particularly among older people. Dizziness can make you feel nauseous and can be isolating. After all, how can you go out if your world is spinning? Some people with vertigo must quit work, stop social activities - many can't even enjoy life in their home because reading, watching television, even cooking or baking, can become impossible to do. But what causes vertigo?

What causes vertigo?

Most often, vertigo is caused by a problem in your ear. There is fluid in your inner ear that acts like a level. When you move your head, the fluid moves and your brain gets information about your head's position. This is how your brain knows if you're on your side or even upside down. If this area of your ear is affected, it can cause dizziness.

Certain parts of your brain also control balance. These are the cerebellum and brain stem. Damage to these parts can throw you off balance.

Treatment of ear-related vertigo

Treating or managing vertigo will depend on what is causing it. If it is caused by labyrinthitis, irritation and inflammation of the inner ear, which is very common, it has to be determined why you have labyrinthitis in the first place. Do you have an inner ear infection? Is it from allergies? Is it a side effect from a medication? Once the cause has been determined, your doctor will suggest a treatment.

If your vertigo is caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or Meniere's disease, your doctor may recommend something called vestibular rehabilitation exercises. A recent study, presented yesterday at the international WONCA conference yesterday (World Organization of Family Doctors), found that simple exercises are effective in helping reduce dizziness in many patients. The study was also published in the British Medical Journal.

Lucy Yardly, a professor at the University of Southampton, found that exercises that involved turning your head right to left and back again, or nodding your head up and down, "lead to reduced dizziness within a matter of weeks of starting, and the benefits lasted for at least a year."

Professor Yardly's study involved 300 patients who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one received routine medical care, which may include medications to reduce symptoms; the second received a booklet based on exercises only; and the third group received the booklet, as well as telephone support from a healthcare professional.

The researchers found that the two groups that had the exercise book felt "much better" than those who received routine medical care. Only 5% of patients in the exercise book groups reported feeling worse at the end of the study, compared with 15% of those who felt worse after only receiving medical care.

So, if you go to the doctor about recurring dizziness and he or she recommends exercises to help - be sure to do them. They may be more helpful than you think they may.

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