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Giddiness and Vertigo

Giddiness and vertigo

Differences Between Giddiness and Vertigo in Singapore

While Vertigo feels like you or everything around you is spinning, Dizziness is a range of sensations that includes feeling light-headed, faint, unsteady, or off-balance. 

If you have vertigo, you may feel like you're moving or spinning when you're not. You might also feel like your surroundings are in motion when you aren’t. While many people describe vertigo as feeling dizzy, they are not the same.

There are two main types of vertigo:

  • Peripheral vertigo: The most common type of vertigo is caused by a problem in the inner ear (vestibular nerve), which connects to the brain.
  • Central vertigo: Occurs when there's a glitch in the cerebellum, an area of the brain.

With vertigo, simple movements can be debilitatingly intense. Those who have severe vertigo can experience it for many days or up to months. Vertigo can also be recurring.

Vertigo is usually a symptom of an underlying condition.

What are the symptoms of Giddiness and Vertigo in Singapore?

Your symptoms will largely depend on the type of vertigo you have.

Signs and symptoms of peripheral vertigo:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling like you're moving or spinning
  • Problems focusing one’s eyes
  • Hearing loss in one ear
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Problems balancing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating

Signs and symptoms of central vertigo:

  • Double vision
  • Facial paralysis
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulties moving your eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Weak limbs

What are the causes of Giddiness and Vertigo?

The most common conditions that result in recurrent vertigo attacks are:

Vestibular Migraines: People with the condition suffer headaches and troublesome vertigo symptoms. The cause of vestibular migraine may be related to lifestyle and hormonal changes that are linked to ageing.
Benign Paroxysmal Positions Vertigo (BPPV): In BPPV, a sudden spinning sensation is brought on due to the degeneration of the inner ear. It is the most common cause of dizziness in older adults and can lead to falls.

Meniere’s Disease: A rare inner ear disorder that sometimes involves ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss. Most patients affected by this disorder improve with medication and lifestyle changes, but some may require surgery to control the bouts of dizziness.

Other lesser-known causes of vertigo include:

  • Cholesteatoma (irregular skin growth in the middle ear)
  • Labyrinthitis (An inner ear infection caused by a cold or flu virus)
  • Vestibular neuronitis (Inflammation of the vestibular nerve)
  • Chiari Malformation (Brain tissue extends into the spinal canal)
  • Various medicines (as a side effect)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Migraines
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

Alternobaric vertigo can occur when pressure differences between the middle ear cavities occur. This usually happens when we fly on an aeroplane or dive underwater.

What should I do if I experience Giddiness and Vertigo in Singapore?

Thankfully, there are things you can do to ease your symptoms and reduce the number of vertigo episodes you have:

Dos:

  • Lie still in a quiet, dark room to lessen the feelings of spinning
  • Sit down straight away whenever you feel dizzy
  • Move your head carefully and slowly
  • Turn the lights on if you get up at night
  • Use a walking stick if you're at risk of falling
  • Sleep with your head slightly raised on 2 or more pillows
  • Get out of bed slowly (sit on the edge of your bed before getting up)
  • Relax yourself as much as possible (anxiety worsens vertigo symtoms)

Don’ts:

  • Do not bend over to pick things up (squat instead)
  • Do not stretch your neck (eg. while reaching upwards)

What are the risk factors for Giddiness and Vertigo in Singapore?

Doctors aren’t yet able to identify a specific source for vertigo symptoms. For instance, there’s often no known trigger for BPPV, but certain risk factors might raise your risk of experiencing it. These include:

  • Being over 50
  • Being female
  • Suffering a head injury
  • Taking certain drugs (eg. antidepressants, antipsychotics)
  • Having a medical condition that affects your sense of balance or ears
  • Having a family member who has vertigo
  • Having experienced vertigo
  • Having an inner ear infection
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Drinking alcohol

Additionally, while the cause of Cervical vertigo is often debated, experts mostly agree that it occurs after a severe neck injury. Post-traumatic vertigo, on the other hand, occurs in those who have suffered head injuries that might have damaged their inner ear.

How can I prevent Vertigo?

You usually can’t prevent initial vertigo, but certain behaviours can help prevent a subsequent vertigo attack. You can avoid:

  • Bright lights
  • Moving your head rapidly
  • Bending over
  • Looking up

Other helpful behaviours include standing up slowly, squatting instead of bending over, and sleeping with your head propped up.

When should I see a doctor for Giddiness and Vertigo?

In most cases, vertigo dissipates on its own. However, because vertigo could be a symptom of an underlying health condition, it is always prudent to see a doctor if you experience vertigo symptoms, especially if it is severe, recurring, or happens for a long time.

If you experience vertigo or dizziness along with the symptoms below, please see a doctor immediately:

  • A severe headache
  • Feelings of being very sick
  • A high-temperature
  • Feelings of being hot and shivery
  • Double vision, or vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Trouble speaking
  • Leg or arm weakness
  • Numbness or tingling

How is Vertigo diagnosed?

The doctor will first need to find out what type of vertigo you have. They will do so by asking about your symptoms, and performing simple physical tests to check your balance. You might also be referred to a specialist for further tests.

For example:

  • Peripheral Vertigo: Your doctor may examine your ears to look for signs of infection, as well as see if you can walk in a straight line.
  • BPPV: Your doctor may perform a Dix-Hallpike manoeuvre. This manoeuvre brings on symptoms of vertigo in individuals with BPPV.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also perform:

  • A hearing test
  • Imaging studies (eg. MRI scan) of your brain and neck

What are the treatment options available in Singapore?

While vertigo mostly gets better without any treatment, some types of vertigo require medical help. 

For example, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics if your vertigo is caused by an infection. You could also be given a series of exercises to follow in order to correct your balance. 

A number of methods that treat Peripheral Vertigo:

  • Antibiotics (to treat infections)
  • Antihistamines (eg. antivert)
  • Prochlorperazine (for nausea)
  • Benzodiazepines (anxiety medication)
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

Surgery can treat severe and persistent cases of Vertigo if other treatment methods prove to be unsuccessful. Such surgery involves removing part or all of one’s inner ear.

Allergy & Sinus ENT Specialist Centre
Head & Neck Surgery Singapore

Dr Soma Subramaniam
MBBCH (IRE), DOHNS(ENG), MMED-ORL(NUS), FRCS-ORL(ENG)
Consultant ENT Specialist and Surgeon
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