Vertigo is not just the title of an old movie

By Kathy Hubbard
If you’re a golf fan, you probably watched some or all of the U.S. Open last weekend. The tournament was played in Tacoma on a very difficult course. Many of the players were less than thrilled with the venue, but instead of the links being the top topic; it was a player with vertigo that took center stage.
On Friday, Jason Day collapsed on the 9th hole. He said that he had been suffering from vertigo for the past month and was undergoing treatments. Somehow this young man toughed it out and went into the final round on Sunday tied for the lead. Then he didn’t, but his game collapsed.
Vertigo is described as a sensation of motion or spinning. Commonly called dizziness, it’s not to be confused with light-headedness which is different. If you have vertigo you actually feel as though the room is moving, reminiscent of the feeling you get when you get off a carousel, only much more exaggerated.
Just so you know, in the famous 1958 Hitchcock film, Vertigo, the condition that the protagonist, James Stewart suffers is not really vertigo, it’s actually acrophobia, which is a subject for another day.
There are two types of vertigo, peripheral and central. MedlinePlus explains, “Peripheral vertigo is due to a problem in the part of the inner ear that controls balance. These areas are called the vestibular labyrinth or semicircular canals. The problem may also involve the vestibular nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain stem.
“Central vertigo is due to a problem in the brain, usually in the brain stem or the back part of the brain (cerebellum).”
Day’s condition was diagnosed as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) which is a peripheral condition caused by a problem in the inner ear. Other causes of vertigo can include a side-effect of some medications, a head injury or an ear infection called labyrinthitis.
“The inner ear has fluid-filled tubes called semicircular canals. When you move, the fluid moves inside these tubes,” MedlinePlus says. “The canals are very sensitive to any movement of the fluid. The sensation of the fluid moving in the tube tells your brain the position of your body. This helps you keep your balance.”
“BPPV occurs when a small piece of bone-like calcium (otoconia) breaks free and floats inside the tube. This sends confusing messages to your brain about your body’s position.”
Most of the time, unless you’ve had a head injury, the cause is unknown. The symptoms may start with you just feeling like the room is moving around or that the room isn’t moving in circles, but you are. You might lose your balance. You probably will feel nauseous and may vomit. You might experience hearing loss and vision problems.
Symptoms commonly come on suddenly when you move your head and last just a few seconds to a few minutes. The queer feeling of queasiness may linger awhile longer.
You must see your healthcare provider to identify your type of vertigo and to determine your course of action. If indeed it is BPPV, the treatment will probably include what’s called an Epley maneuver also called a canalith repositioning procedure. Done first by your medico or a physical therapist then at home, this relatively simple maneuver moves the otoconia to a part of your ear where they won’t cause dizziness.
“The procedure is quite effective, relieving vertigo in 80 percent or more of individuals after one or two treatments,” the Mayo Clinic says. “However, the problem may recur.”
In some cases, medications are effective and sometimes surgery is needed. As for Jason Day, he will take some time off to see what his medical team can do for him.
“I fought the good fight, and I think everybody that watched the telecast knows that I never gave up,” Day said. I join his many fans in wishing him the best of luck.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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