15 vertigo treatments to finally cure your dizziness
What is vertigo?
It’s the feeling of false movement – as if the world is spinning like a carnival ride and you can’t get off.
It is a symptom of many conditions and diseases that target the inner ear, according to the National Organisation for Rare Disorders (NORD). They include:
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Ménière’s disease
- ear infections
- multiple sclerosis
- alcohol or medication toxicity
- viral meningitis
Consider vestibular rehabilitation
Many of the conditions which cause vertigo affect the vestibular system, a pathway located within the inner ear which regulates balance, equilibrium and spatial orientation. According to VeDA – a group focused on inner ear disorders – vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) can be effective at reducing vertigo and dizziness. VRT is an exercise-based program customised for each patient. The exercises focus on improving balance, reducing dizziness and dealing with other symptoms of vertigo. Your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist for this program.
Try the Epley manoeuvre
“For benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a vestibular exercise called the Epley manoeuvre can be helpful,” says Dr Dalvi. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo, and it’s the result of calcium crystals (otoconia) coming loose in the inner ear. According to the Mayo Clinic, the manoeuvre (also called “canalith repositioning“) is best performed by a medical professional because of the risk of neck or back injury. By laying back and then shifting the head, the process moves the crystals to a less sensitive area where they can be reabsorbed by the body. Your doctor will prescribe the Epley manoeuvre for right or left side BPPV.
Change your diet
When migraines include vestibular symptoms such as dizziness, loss of balance and vertigo, they are called vestibular migraines. Alterations in your diet may be a good initial vertigo treatment. Changes in diet that help prevent migraines can reduce or even eliminate vertigo and other vestibular symptoms associated with this type of headache, according to VeDA. “From a dietary standpoint, it is important to avoid alcohol, foods high in salt, and excessive caffeine, as any of these can make symptoms worse,” says Dr Derek Bennetsen, emergency physician.
Gently ride out the storm
Your vertigo may clear up on its own. Sometimes, says Dr Bennetsen, all you need is to lie down and remain calm and quiet. “Vertigo may be alleviated by remaining still, and limiting changes in position as much as possible,” says Dr Bennetsen. In a dark, quiet room, lie still taking care not to move your head or even your eyes, he says. Even if your symptoms resolve on their own, you’ll still want to get checked out, he advises.
Take an antihistamine
As the name suggests, antihistamines block the effects of histamine, which can cause allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and vertigo. Internal medicine specialist, Lisa Ashe, recommends trying over-the-counter Benadryl or the prescription meclizine.
Migraine medicines may help
A study published in Otology & Neurotology in 2018 suggests that preventative medications for migraine, including tricyclic antidepressants, were effective in decreasing dizziness and vertigo in patients.
According to The American College of Cardiology (ACC), sedatives may reduce the spinning associated with vertigo by calming down brain activity and reducing anxiety. Dr Ashe recommends benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan and Xanax. These medications may be a particularly effective vertigo treatment for reducing vertigo caused by inner ear problems, the ACC notes.
Diuretics for Ménière’s disease
Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder that can trigger vertigo. Doctors often prescribe so-called water pills – diuretic medication – and a low-salt diet, says Dr Bennetsen: “This is because the condition is thought to be the result of an excessive build-up of endolymph fluid, in the inner ear.”
Antiviral medications may help
Do you get earaches? Inner ear infections can lead to dizziness and – unlike middle-ear infections – a virus may be responsible. Occasionally, a systemic viral infection like mononucleosis, herpes or the flu can lead to vertigo, according to Cleveland Clinic. “Viral infections may respond to antiviral medications, alleviating symptoms,” says Dr Dalvi. Examples of anti-viral drugs include Tamiflu and Acyclovir.
Drink more water
You need water – and so do your ears. Dehydration is a cause of dizziness, says the Mayo Clinic. Dr Bennetsen also recommends avoiding substances that can deplete fluids such as alcoholic beverages, salty foods and caffeine.
In some rare instances, surgery may be the only treatment that can ease your symptoms of your vertigo. Dr Dalvi says an acoustic neuroma – a benign tumour – can grow on the vestibular nerve between the inner ear and brain, disrupting balance and hearing. According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may monitor this slow-growing neuroma, choose to treat it with radiation or advise surgical removal. Another rare source of vertigo is a malignant brain tumour.
Check your medications
Many popular prescribed medications can trigger side effects like dizziness and vertigo. Or drugs can interact to disturb your balance. Let your doctor know about over-the-counter meds you take and don’t forget to include supplements and herbs. According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs that may cause dizziness include:
- anti-seizure drugs
- blood pressure-lowering drugs
A healthy lifestyle is another vertigo prevention strategy that you need to do no matter what the cause. Try reducing stress and making sure to get enough sleep. Eat a diet full of produce and lean proteins, and stay active (given your condition).
Bone up on vitamin D
Falling short of this vital nutrient can harm your bones – your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Patients with the most common type of vertigo (BPPV) who were deficient in vitamin D may have benefitted from supplementing with D, per 2016 research in Auris Nasus Larynx. Patients were less likely to suffer a relapse of symptoms. (One limitation, however, was the lack of control group in the study.)
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