The world is spinning. Things are floating and moving at unusual speeds. It feels as though a tsunami has hit the coast of California and our house is toppling over and at any moment, I will land on the floor. No, it's not vodka. It's vertigo.
I Have. Vertigo. For the second time in eight years. The first time I had vertigo was one year after I was in a car accident. My daughter was five and we were turning cartwheels and summersaulting all over town. The spinning happened the next morning as I rolled out of bed. The room shifted and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor. Initially diagnosed with an ear infection, I was given antibiotics. When the meds didn't make the spinning stop, I was sent to Dr. J, a gifted Ear, Nose, Throat doctor. He knew what was wrong and promised to fix me.
There are many types and causes of vertigo. A migraine headache or a virus in the inner ear can cause symptoms of vertigo. Luckily, they can be remedied with medication and rest and time. The most common type of vertigo, one that typically afflicts people over 60 or with those who've had head injuries, is called BPPV: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo in which dislodged crystals travel though the labyrinth of the inner ear and send mixed messages from the vestibular system to the brain. It's what I had eight years ago and what I have now.
The key word is "benign" so we know it's harmless, except for the falling and nausea and inability to function normally. This type of vertigo that is inextricably tied to movement. If I move too fast, I spin. If I flip my hair, things get shaky. If I look up, left or right too quickly, I feel disoriented and faint.
The treatment for BPPV - the Epley Maneuver - is like magic. With a vibrating disc pressed behind my ear, Dr. J shifts my head until the misplaced crystals travel back through the inner ear to where they belong. The treatment induces extensive spinning during which I try not to throw up on Dr. J's shoes. For at least a week, I am required to limit my movement and sleep in a recliner so the crystals stay put. But it's worth it. Once my brain trusts the messages from my vestibular system, the world, my-spinning-twirling-falling-over-world, is set right.
If you ever experience symptoms of vertigo, avoid driving, take things slow and see your doctor right away. For best results, find yourself a Dr. J.
Update: I'm happy to report that my treatment worked and the spinning has (mostly) ceased. It's amazing that things can go sideways so easily as we get older. On the brink of 40, I'm really feeling my age and it's freaking me out! More on that to come... Happy Fall!