What is it? Vertigo is a condition in which you feel off-balance and dizzy, as if you or your surroundings are moving, spinning, or swaying. It can lead to nausea and disability. Vertigo is most common in elderly people, but it can affect both sexes at any age. It may be a temporary or permanent condition.

Statistics: Dizziness affects 30% of people over the age of 65. From 2001 – 2004 35.4% of U.S. adults aged 40 years or older (69 million Americans) had vestibular dysfunction. Patient care costs for falls are more than $8 billion per year. Almost eight million American adults report a chronic problem with balance, while an additional 2.4 million Americans report a chronic problem with dizziness alone. Vestibular vertigo accounts for one-third of dizziness/vertigo symptoms in the medical setting.  Dizziness and Vertigo rank among the most frequent complaints in primary care but remain unexplained in 40% to 80% of the cases.  A majority of individuals over the age of 70 years of age report problems of dizziness and imbalance, and balance related falls to account for more than one-half of the accidental deaths in the elderly…..Furthermore, in a sample of persons age 65-75, one-third reported that dizziness and imbalance degrade the quality of their lives. Overall the cost of medical care for patients with balance disorders exceeds $1 billion per year in the United States.

Important Facts:  Common causes of vertigo include: Inner ear disorders, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Ménière’s disease, vestibular neuritis, or labyrinthitis. Injury to the ear or head and migraine headaches can also cause vertigo.

Treatment: Your doctor may begin treatment by prescribing bed rest; medications that suppress the activity of the inner ear, such as meclizine (Antivert, Bonine and other brand names), dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or promethazine (Phenergan); anticholinergic medication such as scopolamine (Transderm-Sco); or a tranquilizer, such as diazepam (Valium). Depending on the cause and duration of the vertigo, additional advice will be offered. For persistent benign positional vertigo, you may be given specific exercises to help reduce the symptoms.

Dos/Don’ts: Do not lie flat on your back. Prop yourself up slightly to relieve the spinning sensation. Move slowly to avoid the risk of falling.

Take safety measures that help lower your risk of getting a head injury that might lead to vertigo.

Common Myths:  Myth: I’m so dizzy; I must have had a stroke. Truth: There are many causes of dizziness, and not all are life-threatening. Benign positional vertigo (BPV) is the most common cause of dizziness.

The first myth is that anxiety causes dizziness and relaxation will resolve this issue. In fact, if a person with vertigo becomes anxious, it is actually easy to link anxiety to the presence of the vertigo.

The second myth is that the vertigo is all in your head because you have an overactive imagination. In fact, vertigo is all in your head; however, probably not because of your imagination. The symptoms of dizziness and unsteady movement are quite real.