Balance disorders can feel unnerving. Suddenly things that came easily to you, like walking and standing, have become real efforts. You may feel a floating or spinning sensation that makes you feel as if you’re going to fall or you may feel lightheaded and disoriented.
When dizziness starts interfering with daily life, it may mean you have a problem with your vestibular system. The vestibular system is a complex network of body parts that helps your body adjust to movement so that you keep your balance.
The vestibular system involves structures such as:
- Inner ear
If any one of those parts or the nerves that run between them malfunction, you may start to feel dizzy. To complicate matters, numerous others causes, such as ear infections or medications, can mimic vestibular dysfunction and make diagnosis more difficult.
These dizzying episodes can also cause other health problems, like anxiety, nausea, diarrhea and blood pressure spikes.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of vertigo or a balance disorder, care teams in the Sutter Health network are ready to help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.
To diagnose the problem, your doctor will likely perform a complete examination, including examining your ears, ordering blood and tests and looking at your eyes. She may also ask to take images of your brain.
Depending on the cause of your balance problems, your doctor may adjust or change your medication, prescribe you additional anti-vertigo or anti-nausea medication or ask you to make some lifestyle changes (like adjustments to your diet or quitting smoking). Your care provider may also recommend additional therapies to help relieve symptoms.
Vestibular physical therapists (VPTs) possess the knowledge and tests to tease out the causes of dizziness or vertigo. A VPT assesses the function of your inner ear, eye control, balance, blood pressure and nerve circuits to create a customized routine to get your life back on track.
For some people, dizziness or vertigo is related to how the brain and nervous system process the surrounding environment. A physical therapist can show you exercises to retrain the nervous system into processing more accurately, improving your balance.
Treatment for many balance and vestibular disorders can be highly effective. Duration of treatment varies based on the disorder or problem.
The following conditions that can be treated effectively by therapy include:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Acute and Chronic Vertigo
- Balance disorders caused by other conditions
Often, people find that a combination of treatments helps. But sometimes dizziness cannot be fully relieved. In these cases, your doctor will help you find ways to adjust your activities to keep from hurting yourself or others. Your team works with neurobiologists to coordinate care with other brain disorders.