Thursday, October 9, 2014
The Vestibular System
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 69 million Americans have experienced a form of vestibular dysfunction, also known as a balance disorder. While these numbers may be alarming, by learning more about the delicate vestibular system, you can help to ensure the health of your family members.
What is the vestibular system and how does it work?
The vestibular system consists of parts of the inner ear and parts of the brain that process information related to balance and eye movements. Balance is maintained in the body by input from three systems: vision; touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine; and the inner ear. When the vestibular system malfunctions, balance issues such as dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties can occur.
What causes vestibular disorders?
• Genetic influences
• Environmental conditions
• Unknown factors
What are common signs of a balance disorder?
• Vertigo and/or dizziness
• Imbalance or disorientation
• Visual disturbances
• Hearing changes
• Psychological and/or cognitive changes
Experts warn that dizziness alone may be a symptom of another condition or disorder. Vestibular disorders often present as more than one symptom. As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms.
What are the most common vestibular disorders?
• Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – a condition resulting from loose debris in the inner ear. BBPV can be caused by a head injury, or it can be part of the natural aging process.
• Meniere’s disease – Also called primary endolymphatic hydrops, this condition involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear. It is a disorder that progressively gets worse.
• Labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis – conditions that are caused by a viral infection, which can result in damage to hearing and the functioning of the vestibular system.
• Secondary endolymphatic hydrops – a condition that involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear.
• Perilymph fistula – a tear or defect in the small, thin membranes that separate the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. This condition is usually caused by injury.
Other vestibular conditions:
• Vestibular migraine (MAV): characterized by headache and may include dizziness, vertigo, and/or imbalance, sensitivity to light and sound.
• Complications from autoimmune disorders.
• Complications from allergies.
Is there a difference between dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties?
• Dizziness is lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.
• Vertigo differs from dizziness because it is characterized by a spinning or sensation with the perception of movement, either of an individual or surrounding objects.
• Equilibrium difficulty, often called disequilibrium, consists of unsteadiness, imbalance, and/or loss of equilibrium.
Who can be affected by vestibular disorders?
Balance disorders can occur at any age.
Are there special concerns for children regarding balance disorders?
Yes. Specifically, the proper development and function of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a concern in children. If impaired, the result may be difficulty in school as well as typical activities such as bike riding and swimming.
What are treatment options?
In some cases, a physician may prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms of a vestibular disorder. Remember to use your Familywize Discount Prescription Drug Card when purchasing medication at your pharmacy to receive applicable discounts. Another treatment option called vestibular therapy, which is a type of physical therapy, may also be used for vestibular rehabilitation.
Want to learn more about balance disorders?
Visit www.vestibular.org, www.hopkinsmedicine.org, or www.www.jvr-web.org.
Be Wize & Be Healthy