As we get older we can add one more health issue to our list. Vertigo is a sudden sensation that you are unsteady or that your surroundings are moving.
Health & Fitness: Vertigo is mysterious case for seniors
By DIANA ROSSETTI
GateHouse News Service
Posted Sep 30, 2008 @ 12:00 AM
Printed in the Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, CT 06360
Along with the wrinkles and aches that accompany the aging process, some seniors also begin to feel unsteady on their feet or dizzy when they move their heads a certain way. It happens when small calcium crystals get misplaced inside the inner ear.
Unfortunately, many live with the condition, never knowing there likely is a simple solution to what they are suffering from — vertigo.
Pearl Carter, a 73-year-old widow who lives in Massillon, Ohio, first experienced vertigo 30 years ago.
“At that time, they didn’t have anyone around here who could help me, so they sent me to a Warren clinic,” recalled the day-care volunteer, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Doctors there prescribed medications and exercises. Years later, when the condition had recurred two more times, doctors pointed her to physical therapists at a nearby hospital.
At a therapy facility, Carter found relief through the expertise of Andy Beltz, a 31-year-old physical therapist with special interest and training in treating vertigo.
Following an assessment, Beltz placed a pair of goggles on her, blocking her ability to focus. A video image of her eye movement was transmitted, then enlarged on a screen. By watching the screen and the reaction of her pupils to gentle movements of her head, Beltz determined what type of vertigo she suffered.
“The eyes are the window to the inner ear,” Beltz explained. “When you have BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), you have rocks in your head. We all have rocks in our head. That’s what I call the tiny crystals that occur naturally in the ear. They help you sense movement. They float in the fluid in the inner ear, which is thick, like honey.
“As we get older, usually past 50, the fluid in the inner ear loses its potency, its properties to break down the little crystals. When the crystals get stuck somewhere, that’s when vertigo begins. We think about 50 percent of dizziness in older people is related to this.”
With extra education and the hospital’s special diagnostic equipment, Beltz — who also teaches his methods — can “read” pupil movement and gently manipulate the patient’s head until the crystals no longer present a problem. A 45- to 60-minute visit often is all it takes, and much of that time, he said, is spent explaining the condition.
Today, Carter is back to volunteering and enjoying her family where once, during the worst vertigo attacks, she would hit the walls of the hallway where she walked.
“I just praise the Lord he sent me there. I’m so thankful and I tell everyone because so many people don’t realize there is help,” she said.
For Perry Township resident Karen Lloyd, a paralegal, vertigo struck in 2000.
“I happened to wake up in the middle of the night and the room was spinning. I was instantly sick,” said the 58-year-old wife and mother. “I went to the ER and I was admitted. I couldn’t move my head for three days without vomiting.”
The vertigo plagued her for a year, though she only missed six weeks of work. “I hugged the wall for a month,” she recalled.
Two years later, when she suffered a relapse, her general practitioner referred her to Beltz.
“I went and I’ve never been dizzy again. It’s been three and a half or four years,” Lloyd said.
“This is not alternative medicine,” Beltz stressed. “It is evidence-based. We have just gotten better at testing the inner ear. We can rule out brain tumor and stroke, find what’s wrong and fix it,” he said.
Treatment requires a physician’s prescription, he said, and is covered by insurance.
At a glance: What is vertigo?
The Mayo Clinic describes vertigo as the sudden sensation you are unsteady or that your surroundings are moving. You may feel as if you’re spinning around on a merry-go-round or that your head is spinning inside.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common forms of the condition.
BPPV is characterized by brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness associated with specific changes in the position of your head. It most commonly occurs when you move your head in a certain direction, lie down from an upright position, turn over in bed or sit up in the morning. Moving your head to look up or look down also can bring on symptoms. Some may feel unbalanced when standing or walking.
Copyright © 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.