Simple cure for vertigo

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 13, 2008 6:35:29 AM PDT
Every year, about three million people report a new sensation they've never had before, and it can be unnerving and scary.It is vertigo, a sudden movement that makes the world start to spin. But sometimes a simple cure works.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

There are different kinds of vertigo. A few people might be familiar with alcohol-induced vertigo, when a person lies down and the room starts spinning. The feeling is the same in positional vertigo. And a lot of us, about one in 20, will experience it at some point in our lives.

It can happen when someone bends over - the room suddenly spins, seemingly for no reason.

George Reehil is now getting a treatment for it. He's been having the spells for a while.

"One day, where I wanted to sleep, I rolled over to hit the alarm clock," he said. "And when I rolled back, everything was just spinning. That was the worse one I ever had."

That spinning problem is called benign positional vertigo, says Dr. Martin Gizzi. He's a neurologist at the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute in Edison.

He put George through some simple head maneuvers that will most likely clear up the condition.

"It absolutely works," Dr. Gizzi said. "It resolves the symptoms in anywhere from one to four applications in over 95 percent of patients."

In fact, the American Academy of Neurologists, to which Dr. Gizzi belongs, has just issued guidelines endorsing this maneuver to deal with the vertigo, which originates with crystals in the inner ear.

Doctors say naturally occuring crystals in the inner ear end up in the wrong place.

Dr. Phillip Kramer worked up a computer model of a face, with colored ear channels to show the problem.

The crystals should be sticking to membrane surfaces, but instead, they fall out. And it's only by maneuvering the head that they can be delivered back to their original site.

Dr. Gizzi says it's one of few problems most neurologist don't mind identifying.

"This is terrific," he said. "It's good for the patient, because it's curable. And it's benign in the sense that is not related to a tumor or a stroke, and it's great for the physician because of it's one of those rare situations that you can actually cure somebody right there in the office."

It is not known why the microscopic crystals get loose in the first place. Sometimes a bump on the head could loosen them, and vertigo shows up years later. It may also occur later in life. This type is very easy to diagnose, but other types of vertigo have to be checked out more thoroughly to make sure there is not tumor or stroke.


New Jersey Neuroscience Institute