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Vertigo is not just a phobia of heights but a condition caused by extreme dizziness which many people suffer from. Learning to control and deal with your triggers and symptoms is the key to living with a very uncomfortable condition.

What is Vertigo?

When I tell people that I suffer from vertigo they think I am afraid of heights, but in actual fact I am talking about the dizziness form of vertigo which many people suffer from. Vertigo itself is a sensation that you or the environment around you is spinning. The easiest way to describe it is as if you are standing on a roundabout and it feels like its moving but its not. There are varying degrees of vertigo from the simple feeling of being off balance for a second, to finding it difficult to keep your balance and are unable to do normal everyday tasks such as walking or driving.

Attacks of vertigo can last from a minute or too up to days long and they often occur suddenly with no warning. My first attack was when away on a conference, suddenly I felt like the chair I was sat on was moving and when I stood up I couldn't focus. It was bad enough to make me nauseous and unable to eat. The only thing that stopped the symptoms was to lay flat and watch TV! This is where I stayed for 2 days! 

Sufferers of vertigo often claim to be depressed and also suffer stress easily because the condition stops you from being able to work on occasion and many people who have continued unexplained attacks give up work due to increased periods of absence - for what many people mistake as just dizziness.

What Can Cause Vertigo?

There are many different causes of vertigo as doctors are generally unable to determine exactly what might be causing yours. The main reason for this is because it is hard to pinpoint just one single factor as many sufferers have numerous potential causes. The most common and easily treatable causes are as follows:

Benign Positional Vertigo: This is when the body is unable to establish an equilibrium and in certain positions such as tilted head movements can trigger a vertigo attack (this is one of my causes from reading whilst tilting my head at the desk).

Meniere's Disease: A condition or problem with the inner ear as the inner ear is responsible for keeping balance. This condition is easily diagnosed when visiting the doctor, normally when referred to an ear nose and throat specialist. The disease is treatable and in some cases can reoccur.

Migraines: Many vertigo sufferers report that during migraine attacks they also get symptoms of vertigo or even the day after a migraine suffer from vertigo attacks.

Other Causes Of Vertigo

Vestibular Neuronitis: Inflammation of one of the nerve which runs into the inner ear as is responsible for delivering messages about the bodies balance. Inflammation will affect delivery of that message making you feel off balance and dizzy.

Other Factors: All conditions mentioned  previously are the conditions that are diagnosed easily, but there are also many other causes such as stress, diet, hydration, hormone imbalance, depression etc. that can cause attacks of vertigo which are hard to diagnose and treat. As mentioned many people become depressed when they are unable to pinpoint the causes.

Treating Vertigo

Some cases of vertigo are treated with medicines designed to attack ear infections which should clear any problems that are associated. However. most cases of vertigo go away by themselves and over time clear up completely. But no one can be sure how long each case will take to improve so seek medical advice if the problem persists. Doctors will normally prescribe anti nausea tablets or "travel-sickness" medication to treat the symptoms as and when they occur.

Another key method to treat vertigo is to undertake vestibular rehabilitation which is a bit like physiotherapy for balance. It helps the brain adapt to incorrect signals to help reduce the symptoms.

Living with vertigo and self care

As mentioned it is often hard to diagnose or treat some of the causes and symptoms of vertigo so many people have to learn how to deal with and prevent symptoms. Some of the top tips that I have used are:

  • sleeping with your head slightly raised or on multiple pillows
  • get up slowly, particularly in the morning sit on the edge of the bed for a minute to balance before standing
  • avoid over extending the neck where possible
  • do exercises that trigger your vertigo - this forces the brain to deal with and correct the imbalance (only with support)

Living with a condition like a vertigo can be very taxing as attacks can happen anytime anywhere but if you develop an understanding of your own triggers and how to deal with the symptoms it is easy to stay in control. If you do suffer an attack the best thing to do as soon as possible is to lay down and rest as many times vertigo can be triggered by extreme tiredness or fatigue. Let the symptoms pass and wait until you feel better to attempt driving or getting back to normal.

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