Balance is the key to all functional movements. When we walk, run, bike or swim, we are balancing ourselves. A balance disorder impairs these functions. It is a feeling of being unsteady, often accompanied by dizziness or vertigo. But what is the difference between the two? Dizziness is a sense of spatial disorientation without a false sense of motion, often described as light-headedness, generalized weakness and feeling faint. But vertigo is a sensation of motion (usually whirling) either of the body or the environment, caused by asymmetric dysfunction of the vestibular system or brain. Meaning, when you have vertigo, the room you’re in feels like it’s moving even whilst you are sitting and lying down.
But all said and done, vertigo is not a disease. It is a symptom. And the most common disorders that affect your balance and trigger vertigo are:
BENIGN PAROXYSMAL POSITIONAL VERTIGO (BPPV)
This is the most common cause of vertigo. Benign means it’s not very serious and your life is not in danger (unless you lose your balance and fall). Paroxysmal means that it hits you suddenly and lasts for a short time. Positional means you trigger it with certain postures or movements. It’s inconvenient because simple movements like—tipping your head back to look up, getting out of bed or standing up—can activate a vertigo spell. But worry not. It is easily treatable. BPPV develops when small crystals of calcium carbonate that are normally lodged in the sensitive tubes of the inner ear break free due to trauma or ageing. This sends confusing messages to your brain about your body’s position, often throwing you off your balance.
Who it affects: Studies indicate that BBPV is an inherited condition. Most people who have it also have relatives with this condition. However, those who have had prior head injuries, osteoporosis, diabetes, inner ear conditions or are ageing may also be prone to it.
The inner ear, because of its delicate canals, is also known as the Labyrinth. Labyrinthitis is an inflammatory infection that affects the delicate structure of the inner ear and disrupts the flow of sensory information to the brain. This disruption can result in vertigo. The most common cause of it is viral infections. But it can sometimes occur due to certain types of bacteria. While both types of infection can cause similar symptoms, bacterial labyrinthitis is generally more severe than the viral one, and treatments for the two are very different.
Who it affects: While Labyrinthitis can affect anyone, those who have respiratory illnesses like the common cold, bronchitis or flu, a middle-ear infection, meningitis, head injuries, herpes, measles or autoimmune conditions are more prone to it.
VESTIBULAR NEURITIS (NEURONITIS)
The nerve of the inner ear is called the vestibulocochlear. This nerve sends balance and head position information from the inner ear to the brain. Vestibular neuritis is a disorder that affects this nerve, causing it to swell up. When this happens, the nerve upsets the way the information would normally be interpreted by the brain.
Who it affects: Researchers believe that vestibular neuritis is caused by a viral infection. While it is rare in children, it can happen to just about anyone. But if you have cold sores, shingles, chickenpox, measles, flu, mumps, hepatitis or polio, then you are at a greater risk of contracting it.
This affliction takes its name from a French doctor, Prosper Ménière, who suggested in the 1860s that vertigo symptoms came from the inner ear and not just the brain, as most people at that time believed. While the cause of this disease is unclear, doctors say that it leads to a fluid build-up in the tiny canals of the inner ear. It is a progressive disease that tends to get severe with time.
Who it affects: While the disease can affect people of any age, people in their 40s and 50s are much more likely to experience it. This condition is chronic, but it has various treatment strategies that can minimize the effect on your life and relieve symptoms.
(This Article is Sponsored by Abbott)