During the month of April this blog has focused on a number of general topics as they relate to chronic illness. Today we are going to touch on a specific issue, because all of the other topics I chose for the letter V just didn’t sit well with me. So in order to remain relevant and in an attempt to touch on something new each day, we will delve into the dizzying world of vertigo.
Vertigo can be an illness in its’ own right. It can also be a symptom of many other illnesses, and even a side effect of some medications or surgeries. I’ve experienced vertigo on many levels throughout my life. I’ve experienced severe disabling vertigo many years ago as a result of what I was told was Meniere’s Disease.
To this day I’m not sure what was worse, the vertigo itself or the side effects of the medication. While the medication is specifically designed to treat vertigo, the dosage had to be titrated to such a high and round the clock dosage that it made me feel similar to what I suppose a zombie feels like. I was so groggy all the time and felt like I was living in a deep and all-consuming fog. Add to that the fact that it didn’t eliminate the vertigo and it was not a very pleasant time. Eventually after lots of time and physical therapy it seemed to resolve itself. Although to be honest, even my physician could not explain how or why.
Several other times I experienced acute onset vertigo as a result of what I’m told was an inner ear disturbance. After receiving specialized therapy at a local physical rehab hospital to treat what they called crystal formation in my inner ears, it too eventually resolved. Each time I experience it I forget just how debilitating even mild vertigo can be. Driving is nearly impossible. Just getting out of the recliner to walk to the bathroom can be a nearly insurmountable task.
Most recently, after major neurosurgery to repair a spinal cord injury in may neck, I once again experienced vertigo. More moderate this time than the severe vertigo of many, many years ago. But still significant enough to further affect my balance and ability to be mobile under my own power. Every time the therapists would try to get me up out of the wheelchair to attempt walking with the walker, I would get severely dizzy. Sometimes to the point of things beginning to get dark and I would be placed safely back in the wheelchair until it passed. Other times I could counter it with relatively low doses of the medication, and techniques taught to me by my therapists. Needless to say it made recovery a bit of a challenge.
Add to the dizziness, fatigue from the medication, and I think the very worst part besides mobility being affected, was the nausea. Unrelenting, spontaneous, and severe nausea. I can’t count the number of times my nurse had to be summoned to the physical therapy area to give me a drug to attempt to counteract the nausea. This too didn’t always work, but at least it helped.
The point is that vertigo, regardless of the cause can be anything from a minor nuisance to a debilitating problem. If it is in conjunction with another illness or injury, the effects of vertigo can be greatly enhanced and even more troublesome. While there are medications designed to alleviate the effects of vertigo, it may be so severe that you wind up having to ingest multiple medications to counter it. In the process it is a known risk that you can compound the side effects of many of these medications, further complicating treatment and your quality of life while battling vertigo.
Have you or someone you know suffered from vertigo? What seemed to help mitigate the effects of vertigo? How did you cope with the vertigo and associated side effects of the medication(s)? Please share your story with us below.