Feeling like the World is Spinning Around… It could be Vertigo
Over 9.9 million people in India experience vertigo[i]. While nearly everyone experiences dizziness at some point in their life, vertigo is different. It is a balance disorder which can lead to a sudden, unpleasant sensation that makes one feel like the world is spinning around. It is disturbing and can happen without warning, and it is important not to dismiss it as just ‘a moment of dizziness.’
Left unchecked, vertigo can turn lives upside down. Things that most people take for granted, whether routine tasks or special occasions – grocery shopping, travelling, working, visiting friends and family, going on holidays – can be very difficult for people with vertigo.
Renowned global vertigo expert, Dr. Michael Strupp, Professor of Neurology, Department of Neurology and German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders, Hospital of the Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany said, “Vertigo affects 1 in 10 people around the world, yet there continue to be challenges with diagnosis, which can make the journey to getting treatment long and difficult. Despite its high prevalence, there is a lack of awareness about the condition amongst both patients and healthcare professionals[i]. But once someone is accurately diagnosed, it is treatable.
Dr. Strupp further added, “Although treatments can improve symptoms, quite frequently, people with vertigo do not adhere to the prescribed treatment. This may cause symptoms to come back. We must raise awareness on its signs and how to manage it by taking the treatment as prescribed, so people can get the support they need to get their vertigo under control.”
A vertigo episode can happen at any age, but it is more commonly observed in the elderly, with about 30% of people over 60 years of age, and 50% over 85 years of age experiencing vertigo and dizziness.[ii] India’s elderly population (60 years and above) is expected to touch 194 million by 2031.[iii] Although vertigo isn’t dangerous, a sudden attack can be alarming and increase the risk of falls and fractures, which can greatly impact their quality of life. The fear of falling can also trigger psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as panic attacks, taking a toll on their wellbeing. The elderly may also develop a fear of being in situations where escape is difficult, or help might be out of reach.
Additionally, vertigo is more common in women – and they are two to three times more likely to suffer from vertigo than men.[iv] While the reason for this is unclear, experts suggest that it could be due to hormonal influences. Vertigo may result from increased hormonal fluctuations across different phases of a woman’s life. Some women, for instance, report increased vertigo patterns before their monthly menstrual cycle. During menopausal transition, women also experience hormonal fluctuations which may trigger migraines. With vertigo strongly linked to migraines, it may explain vertigo’s gender bias.
Dr Jejoe Karankumar, Medical Director, Abbott India said, “Vertigo can have a significant impact on a person’s day to day life, standing in the way of them living their fullest life possible. At Abbott, we aim to help people benefit from earlier vertigo diagnosis, so that they can get the care they need and move forward in life with confidence. To empower people to take control of their health, Abbott has been actively working towards improving the diagnosis of vertigo with access to diagnostic tools. We engage physicians in workshops to educate them about the condition and ways to address it. This includes a Robotic Head which helps doctors better understand the condition based on head and eye movements.”
Vertigo may lead to frustration because of the uncertainty and lack of control. Further, it can lead to other challenges including memory deficits or ‘brain fog,’ affecting a person’s ability to think clearly, concentrate, or remember information.[v],[vi] Vertigo also impacts various aspects of one’s life – leading to a loss of independence, disrupting daily activities. This condition also affects the working population and can create financial difficulties owing to lost working days, changing jobs, or giving up work completely.
Vertigo can be managed. Once its cause is known, doctors can recommend ways to treat it and provide long-term relief. This can include physical therapy, medication, psychotherapy, or even surgery in some cases, depending on the severity of symptoms.[vii] To manage vertigo well, people should follow their doctor’s advice and adhere to their medication schedules so they can improve their quality of life. It can also be helpful for people and their loved ones to recognize triggers that induce their attacks and address these by making lifestyle changes– like avoiding certain sudden movements of the body or neck.