Roots of Central Vertigo
The most comprehensive understandings of a thing usually come from its relation to something else. In the same way we cannot fully understand light without its relation to dark, we cannot fully understand central vertigo without its relation to specific systems in our body. Because the causes of vertigo stem either from the vestibular system in the inner ear or the central nervous system, they are categorized into peripheral vertigo (vestibular) and central vertigo (the other one).
Central vertigo is caused by a malfunctioning in the brainstem or cerebellum, or if you’re too tired for technical terms-the back of the brain. If you are suffering from central vertigo, something is affecting the brain’s ability to do its job properly, a job which, in addition to controlling balance, equilibrium, and eye movements, is an integral part of our basic functioning, such as breathing, maintaining consciousness, and controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Symptoms tend to be more debilitating than those of an underlying inner ear infection. As well as dizziness and nausea associated with peripheral vertigo, symptoms may include an inability to walk, poor vision and slurred speech. Does this sound like every second person you’ve seen stagger out of a pub at 4a.m? Well, it should, because this is an example of central vertigo caused by toxins interfering with the functioning of the brain.
As well as toxins, such as those found in alcohol, central vertigo may be caused by metabolic problems such as kidney failure, or neurological problems like multiple sclerosis or stroke. Any sign of brainstem disease can be potentially life-threatening and should be treated as such.
Diagnose and Treatment
A doctor comes to an accurate diagnosis by examining medical history, performing a physical examination, hearing tests, a CT scan or MRI. While the underlying cause should be investigated and treated, the ailments symptomatic of the cause can be alleviated with medication.
Antihistamines, anticholinergics, and sedatives may be used to lessen the patient’s discomfort. Triggers of vertigo like nicotine are to be avoided.
While treating the symptoms of vertigo may help a patient in the short term, curing chronic vertigo requires that the underlying condition be diagnosed and treated. It is sometimes possible to treat central vertigo with the use of neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors or gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) modulators. Central vertigo brought on by a stroke may be treated with the use of medications that thin blood or that dissolve blood clots.
Central Vertigo can be indicative of a brain stem condition but it doesn’t automatically equate to a life-threatening illness.
CT scans and MRIs can be frightening, and the period between symptoms presenting themselves and a clear diagnosis can be torturous. It is best to trust in your doctor rather than trying to self-diagnose through Google.
As the case of Fedup36 on healthunlocked.com demonstrates, googling worst case scenarios will only aggravate stress and sleeplessness. Fedup36 writes:
“So I’ve been feeling dizzy and basically rubbish for a year now. I had balance testing the other day and the test people seem concerned that it is central vertigo; this means something is wrong with my brain. Since Wednesday my anxiety is so bad, I keep shaking, my vertigo and dizziness is really bad and I can’t think of anything else than what could happen with this vertigo and my results. I’m scared I’m going to lose everything. I thought this vertigo was just anxiety now it’s looking lint it’s not. I just looked at google which scared me as its literally saying oooo numb face and vertigo must be something to do with my nerves and something has damaged those nerves I have had these symptoms for a year now, mostly the numbness and tingling in the face and the vertigo/dizziness. It is honestly ruining my life and I just want to get better “
Her agonizing posts continue through to her test results, which end being a harmless cyst.
The internet is littered with thousands of posts like this, but for every vent of fear and frustration, there is a voice of calm and reassurance from people who have been through similar experiences. In response to Fedup36, Whywhy writes:
“I do strongly believe , you are getting good care & they no [sic] what they are doing & they dont think this is serious enough to see you any quicker , which, as difficult as that is when its happening to us , try & tell yourself thats a good thing. I would worry if they said , get straight in here now , then it would maybe time to be concerned
I am sure this anxious feeling you are getting will pass when you have peace of mind again , which you will XXX.”
The best thing you can do when experiencing central vertigo is to concentrate on managing the symptoms that you can control, and ignoring the underlying cause, which you can’t control until a professional diagnosis is made.