Vertigo Overview

This page gives an overview of the Balance System and Vertigo. For more details on Tests for Vertigo and its managementplease click here.

The Balance System

Our bodily systems for balance work every time we come into motion, walk ,sit, run or lie down but we are hardly aware of this. We realise the importance of the balance system only when something goes wrong in it. There are three sources from where we get our balance:

Vision: Our eyes give us a vision of our surroundings in relation to where we are.

Joints: The sensors in our joints, muscles and feet give us important information about our position

Ears: Balance organs within our ears (vestibular system)

We have 5 balance organs in each ear. Three of them are semicircular canals and are filled with fluids. These canals have very tiny hair cells in them. On rotation of the head, this fluid moves in the canal and the hair cells sense this movement. They send messages to the brain about the movement which in turn sends signals to control our eye and body movements.
Normally the information sent by the brain is perfectly matched, though it might not be so in case of a loss of balance function. if this is sudden, one feels severe symptoms like spinning around as if one was in a round about. One might feel sick and have an inability to walk across a room.

Conditions that may affect your balance:

Multifocal glasses: People older than 40 years often need to wear bifocal glasses that may make them feel unsteady, though this is temporary and people adapt to it rather quickly.
Decreased Blood supply: A reduction in blood supply to the inner ears causes balance problems. This can be cause of dizziness often associated with other symptoms such as blackouts , loss of sensation and visual problems.

Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis: In case of a viral infection of the inner ear and nerve. This can cause an imbalance in the information reaching the brain. This can lead to dizziness and one may feel that the world is spinning around. Tinnitus (buzzing/ hissing noise in the ear) and hearing loss may be associated with this.

Meniere's disease: This is caused by changes in the pressure of the fluid in the inner ear which cause sudden bouts of dizziness. The length of these bouts may vary between 30 minutes and several hours and are usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as hearing loss.

Migraine: This is a very common cause of dizziness and can make you dizzy whether or not you have a headache.

Neck related dizziness: injuries or manipulations by health care professionals can cause dizziness. An operation on ones ear may cause temporary or permanent dizziness.

Position related dizziness: This is very common and one of it's commonest forms is BPPV. This disorder gives short spells of dizziness typically initiated by a change in position. The symptoms clear up naturally in some month's time. There are some specific exercises which have to carried out by balance specialists such as us which aim to correct the problem straight away for most people.