Dealing with Vertigo

Have you ever gotten up quickly and felt a little dizzy or turned over in bed and had the room start spinning? Well, that’s exactly what has been happening to me intermittently since March. It’s a pretty helpless feeling when it comes on suddenly. And it is especially confusing and frustrating when it disappears as quickly as it comes on.

But about two weeks ago, the day after I hiked the Grand Canyon, I had a terrible bout of vertigo. It included nausea, a complete feeling of being unbalanced and it was all around yucky. I had a hard time standing up from a seated position and had to avoid any quick head or neck movements.

I couldn’t even drive to work the next day, so I attended our morning meeting via Zoom. One of my coworkers said, “You need to go to Dizziland.”

“Ha! Ha!” I thought. But then I remembered that this coworker Leslie had had a weeklong bout of vertigo along with migraines last year and had found a specialist who treated and cured her. So, after our Zoom meeting, I called her. She told me that there are only two places in the United States that have an extensive treatment center to treat vertigo and one happens to be in Newport Beach—about 20 miles from our offices (the other one is in Florida). She told me to check out their website www.dizziland.com.

I immediately went on the website and filled out the inquiry form and within a day I received a phone call. After I described my symptoms, it was as if the universe was working on my behalf, as she said, “Wow—we have an opening at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Are you available?” “Of course I am!” was my answer. She told me I would come in for a consultation with the doctor and would then go through a battery of tests for four hours.

I was advised to wear loose clothing and to not eat a lot, as during the testing, some patients have gotten nauseous. So, I opted for no food in the morning (thank goodness).

When I walked in to meet the doctor, I got a smile on my face. His name is Dr. Howard Mango. Mango! So immediately I told him that I sell mangoes and we started talking about the produce business. What a small world. When he was a student at the University of Southern California, he used to work at the 32nd Street Market near downtown LA—in the produce department! Talk about establishing immediate rapport!

I asked him how he got into the audiology field—he told me that his real passion was acting, but he also loved the sciences. He said that John Ritter (famed actor) was in one of his early acting classes at USC. Well, Dr. Mango realized that John was really good … so thought maybe he should pursue a career in science!

Back to the assessment of my vertigo. I spent more than four solid hours being tested. Two separate times, my complete torso was strapped into a chair (looks like an astronaut’s seat on a space capsule) and was turned in every possible direction.

One of the tests involved being spun at what felt like a really high speed, in the dark, and having to focus on various shapes and bright spots. Another test involved lying on a table with blackout goggles on, then they put a long, thin balloon in each of my ears—one with warm water and one filled with cold water.I stood on a platform, and below my feet the floor would jerk or move, and they were recording how I reacted and whether I lost my balance. I never felt terrible or anxious during the four hours of testing, but it was comforting that the three separate technicians who guided me through the morning (actually medical students doing their training), were kind and nurturing. I’m guessing that my vertigo challenges were mild compared to some of the people who came for treatment. It made me laugh as during one test (when I was strapped into a chair in the dark and spinning very fast), the technician was asking me to list things. It’s a great distraction technique. She asked me to name all kinds of animals. I said, “Hey, I sell fruits and veggies for a living—can I just name them for you?!” The whole idea was to distract me from getting anxious about being spun around.

So this week, I got my diagnosis. During the testing, I figured out that the issue was probably on my left side and, in fact, Dr. Mango told me that it is my left ear that is “sick.” The diagnosis is called “Vestibular Neuritis and Labyrinthitis”—a disorder resulting from a viral infection that inflames the inner ear. This has caused Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (sounds awful, but really means: not life-threatening, sudden and caused by certain head positions). It was fascinating to learn about how the eyes, the ears and the brain really do work together to keep us balanced.

The treatment is Advanced Vestibular Treatment™ which is solely directed by doctors of audiology. The Dizziland Institute and one other facility in St. Louis are the only practices in the country using it. This treatment is performed at the doctors’ office twice a week and at home (on my computer) on all other days of the week, to retrain my eyes, brain and ears. The doctor also confirmed that part of the treatment is to take at least 2000 mg of Vitamin D3 a day and to eat a diet of healthy (non-junk) foods. I am relieved that he was able to quickly pinpoint the cause of my vertigo, and in six weeks of physical therapy I should be well on my way to being vertigo-free!

If you know someone who has experienced vertigo, and they are willing to see an audiologist/specialist who specializes in vertigo treatment, please pass this website along to them:  www.dizziland.com. My insurance covered everything except the copay.

It will be a life-changer!

Karen

Me, in the treatment chair this week.