I think I have vertigo
November 12, 2017 12:09 AM   Subscribe

I've been feeling dizzy and weak for 5 days. I think it might be vertigo. I'm going to the doctor on Monday but in the meantime do you have any tips for how I can feel less awful.

I started feeling lightheaded on Tuesday night. It was the first day of my period so I thought it was related to that. The feeling persisted through the week so I went to the doctor on Thursday. My blood pressure, heart rate etc. were normal and so the doc agreed that it was probably some kind of extended menstrual issue.

But now my period is over and I still feel faint all the time and dizzy with any sudden movement. Having spoken to a friend with vertigo I think that could be what I have. I'll go back to the doctor on Monday but in the mean time do you have any tips for how I can get through the weekend?

Yes I know self-diagnosis is not a good idea but any general tips on how to get through the day while feeling lightheaded appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can try the Epley Maneuver (there are lots of YouTube videos and sites with instructions if you Google around). It may or may not help depending on the cause of the vertigo, but it won't hurt.
posted by brainmouse at 12:21 AM on November 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've had bouts of vertigo. It's very unpleasant, as though I were falling and spinning in midair. My doctor did the Dix-Hallpike test, an easy diagnostic maneuver for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Your doctor holds your head as you lean back and turn to the side, looking for a symptomatic eye movement called nystagmus.

Here's a PDF of Causes of Dizziness from the Vestibular Disorders Association. That site is a rich mine of information, but many links there are to PDFs, easier to navigate with desktop browser tabs.

If it is vertigo, I strongly recommend a properly trained vestibular specialist (pdf). The right kind of physical therapy helped.

This may seem obvious,, but until you can get to the doctor, rest as much as possible. Avoid sudden movements and try to keep your head still and upright. Do not drive. Best of luck.
posted by conscious matter at 1:02 AM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I get vertigo due to chronic illnesses and sometimes with migraines. (And that I needed glasses for like 3+ years and it messed up my inner ear.)

The ONLY thing that ever helped me was Ativan. Those classes of medications calm the signals from your inner ear (hence why I couldn't take it for my balance testing.)

The list of reasons for vertigo can be long, so in the meantime, just stay still and try to get something like a low dose of Ativan. Sometimes lying on one side can feel better than the other. Dark rooms help. Nausea medication can also help if you're getting that too. Zofran is a miracle for me.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:06 AM on November 12, 2017

You can try the Epley Maneuver (there are lots of YouTube videos and sites with instructions if you Google around).

epley is outdated, according to my (numerous) doctors, look for semont instead. either one will only work if it is positional vertigo, which is unrelated to migraine vertigo, motion sickness, meniere's, etc.

positional vertigo is different from lightheadedness upon standing (presyncope). if it is actually BPPV you should be able to trigger it pretty easily by tipping your head back as though you were putting eyedrops in (do this sitting down) and then to the side as though looking down your back at your own butt.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:14 AM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not medical advice obviously, but this exact same thing happened to me this week. My theories (the sane, non WebMD fueled ones) have been fighting off a virus (haven’t gotten sick but have felt worn down), changing my caffeine levels, or some SAD bullshit, or very mild illness causing me blocked ears. I really don’t know but just wanted to mention because this sort of random shit tends to happen to me and drive me crazy and then clear up in a week or so.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:42 AM on November 12, 2017

One very easy, low-risk thing you can try on your own is taking a decongestant. I know someone who’s had vertigo triggered by allergies or a mild cold with some fluid buildup in their inner ear. OTC decongestant improved them from barely functional to “notice the dizziness if I pay attention” levels.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:57 AM on November 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dizzy as in spinning/moving with changes in head position, or lightheaded as in about to faint when you stand? You use both terms in your question. Vertigo is the former; the latter is syncope/presyncope. 90% of my day job is distinguishing between the two, as they have very different causes.

Causes of acute-onset vertigo involve the connections between the inner ear and brain: the aforementioned BPPV, viral infections (labyrinthitis, neuronitis), Menieres (accompanied by hearing loss and ringing in the ears), the prodrome of basilar migraine (very rare), stroke (even rarer esp in menstruating age women). All of these except stroke have a prominent nausea/vomiting component. All, including stroke, have a characteristic eye movement finding called nystagmus; you can probably find videos online but no idea how you'd self diagnose that. All, including stroke, are worst at onset and slowly improve over days to weeks, though Menieres and BPPV can have relapses. If it's BPPV, the Epley manuever may help. If Menieres, a low salt diet.

Causes of acute-onset syncope are usually vascular: anemia (look for pallor of the inside of the lower eyelid), dehydration (look for tenting, where you pull up a bit of skin usually on the back of your hand -- should recoil instantly but if dehydrated, will stay up like a tent) , hypoglycemia. If you have a BP cuff at home, take your blood pressure and heart rate sitting and standing. The absolute numbers are less exciting than the difference; if the top number when standing drops more than 20 points from the top number when sitting, that's called orthostatic hypotension, almost always accompanies dehydration. When you go back to the doctor on Monday, make sure they do your blood pressure both sitting and standing.

Undiagnosed menstrual anemia is sadly common, and can take some time to build your iron stores back up. If you are dehydrated, fluids with electrolytes will help but would worsen Menieres (this is why it's important to get the vertigo/syncope distinction right).

In addition to seconding the suggestion of asking for vestibular physical therapy, if it is vertigo, my other pro-tip is that if your doctor gives you meclizine, don't take it for more than a few days. It's a wonder drug if used intermittently for vertigo, but staying on it long term screws up your brain's actual ability to recognize motion from non-motion (and other longterm side effects too).
posted by basalganglia at 4:36 AM on November 12, 2017 [12 favorites]

This is not a remedy but something that may help you feel better, short term.Try ingesting some ginger; you can take it in any form as long as there's real ginger involved. Ginger candy, ginger tea, or ginger in a cake all work. It often helps with dizziness and nausea and if it doesn't help, it won't hurt in this case either.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:28 AM on November 12, 2017

I have Meniere's disease, during bad vertigo attacks I take meclizine and/or promethazine. Plus sometime get a bag or two of saline pumped into me.

Laying down on my back in a totally darkened room, eyes closed, pillow/arm/mask over my eyes, and being completely still also helps.
posted by aerotive at 7:39 AM on November 12, 2017

Ah vertigo/dizziness is awful.. As others have said, you need to see a doctor, but it's highly likely to be either BPPV (which can be fixed with a couple of maneuvers), or a viral infection in the inner ear (labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis) which is horrible, but usually goes away by itself in a few days/weeks.

In the meantime, anything that calms down the signals from the inner ear will make you feel better although this is NOT a long term solution as others have pointed out. Alcohol will do this, as will OTC anti allergy tablets (anti-histamines). Prochlorperazine/Stemetil is likely to be prescribed by the doctor, and sometimes you can get it without a prescription.

If it does turn out to be labyrinthitis and goes on for more than a few weeks, feel free to message me. I dealt with this for over a year and it was awful, but I am much better now. This isn't meant to scare you! I've only ever met one other person who had it as long as me, while I've met several others who were awful for a few days/weeks and then went back to normal. So don't fret.
posted by inner_frustration at 8:09 AM on November 12, 2017

One weird cause that happened to me: tight face/jaw/neck muscles.

According to my physiotherapist, if these muscles are tight, they can pull on the ear, therefore causing dizziness.

There are even specialty physiotherapists who specialize in dizziness.
posted by Murderbot at 10:10 AM on November 12, 2017

I always try a decongestant first (I have a long history of sinusitis, and can have trouble in my ears before it ever reaches my face/nose/throat), which should be safe for you to do as long as it's not specifically contraindicated for you. If a day's worth of pseudoephedrine makes no difference, you can report that to your doctor as an important data point.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2017

This JUST happened to me. I gave in and went to see a nurse practitioner about it yesterday. I'd had low level hazyness/lightheadedness plus occasional vertigo (room spinning) when doing things like putting in eyedrops, getting into and out of bed, trying to get the last bit of liquid out of a soda can, etc. for about 4 days. The vertigo generally lasted about 5 seconds. All my vitals, including the standing/lying blood pressure, checked out fine at the doctor's office, so they told me to try the Epley Maneuver (as described here) when I got home (3 times a day, do it for both sides, repeat until you've been without vertigo for 24 hours). I went through the exercise once and it felt awful, I got all spinny. And then I felt kind of ok, but just tried to hold my head very still for the rest of the day. And now... I'm fine. I mean, I'm still in the 24 hours, barely, but as far as I can tell, totally fine and so happy about it. I kind of can't believe it.

Obviously, there could be so many other causes, this could not work for you, it will probably make you feel bad temporarily, but it seems unlikely to do any permanent damage to try it.
posted by Secretariat at 12:58 PM on November 12, 2017

Forgive me for not thoroughly reading the other answers. I want to cut right to the chase ASAP.

If your vertigo is positional, you need to get this extremely inventive (though overpriced) gadget. I just went thru this last month. it's awful. But the DizzyFix fixed it.

I see a number of people above recommend "Epley Maneuver", a way of migrating the out-of-position crystals in your ear into a place where they are no longer troublesome. The "DizzyFix" ensures that you do the maneuver correctly. It's a ball floating in oil in a tubey thing which you strap to your head (by clipping it to a cap). It simulates your innner ear, so as you make the ball move through the tubes, you are doing likewise with the crystals in your ear.

I tried doing Epley myself and with a physical therapist, with limited results. I blew $100 on the gadget, used it once, and I was FIXED. Many similar testimonials on Amazon. Get it. Don't even think about it. If you're dead broke, PM me. Don't live with this.

One note: the vertigo gave me migraine (I've never had migraine before). And the migraine gave me non-positional vertigo (which isn't cured by Epley maneuver). And then that non-positional vertigo gave me migraine. It was a NASTY vicious circle for a while, but it eventually calmed down. But, again, after one use of the DizzyFix, I could move my head in any direction without triggering the vertigo, so the root cause was gone.

Be sure to watch the youtube video explaining how to use it (it's all in the instructions, which should also be carefully read).
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:15 PM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had BPPV a few times, and the Epley maneuver has worked for me, but a word of warning. The maneuver itself can also cause extreme vertigo, as in the room spinning at several revolutions per second. Just in case, have a bag or trash can handy in case of immediate projectile vomiting. Unfortunately I learned that the hard way.
posted by wps98 at 7:29 PM on November 12, 2017

I had the worst bout of vertigo I’ve ever had earlier this year. My go-to has always been Epley, but that didn’t do me much good this time. I came across this roll method on YouTube and it really helped. It took doing it a few times a day as needed for about 5 days but I got better day by day.

Roll method - right side
Roll method - left side
posted by dorkydancer at 7:47 PM on November 12, 2017

I have vertigo. Light headedness and weakness are not symptoms of vertigo. Not that you can't also have them, but vertigo is caused by the incorrect balance sense of the inner ear. So it produces dizziness and nausea, but not everything that produces dizziness and nausea is vertigo. Can you call the advice/nurse line of a health insurer? This is not medical advice, but if it were me I would make sure I had plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Pedialyte is best because it doesn't contain sugar (which will make you throw up) and the flavors are pretty good so you actually want to drink it even though you're not feeling well. You can find it in the baby food section of most large retailers or you can order the packets online. Drink 2 liters steadily over the course of a day. Hope you were able to get some answers from the doctor.
posted by wnissen at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2017

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