How Does Vestibular Dysfunction Affect the Body?
The human vestibular system includes the parts of the brain and the inner
ear that deal with processing and understanding the sensory information
that people need to control their eye movements and balance.
Vestibular dysfunction can occur in those individuals who have any type
of damage to or condition affecting the nervous system. This can occur
because of external and environmental issues, genetic conditions, and
other reasons that doctors are unable to pin down. When suffering from
vestibular dysfunction, the ability to control the body's center mass
is diminished. The body can eventually develop weakness in the muscles
and even paralysis in some cases.
Many people suffering from vestibular dysfunction experience the following:
- Inability to control their movements or prevent certain movements from occurring
- A limited range of motion
- Inability to maintain their posture
- Impairment of overall motor coordination
Some who have vestibular dysfunction will also have positional vertigo.
This means that they feel the room is spinning around them and they have
no control over it. This is a very common type of persistent symptom that
can cause a major loss in quality of life.
Another symptom some may develop is called oscillopsia. This gives the
patient the feeling that objects that are actually stationary are moving
back and forth, or oscillating. Because of the disorienting affect, many
people with this condition can also suffer from nausea and even vomiting.
Diagnosing Vestibular Dysfunction
Those who feel that they may be suffering from some type of vestibular
dysfunction should make sure that they speak with a neurologist right
away so they can get a proper diagnosis. The doctor will want to know
the patient's medical history, as well as whether they have suffered
from other similar episodes, motion sickness, drug abuse, diabetes, and
a host of other diseases.
Expert neurological specialists will also want to know about all of the
current medications the patient is taking to determine if any of those
medications are mimicking the effects of vestibular dysfunction. For example,
medication that can cause a sedative effect can make balance difficult.
The doctors will then move on to assess the following during a physical
exam to check the patient's musculoskeletal structure:
- Range of motion
- Reflex cancellation
This is done to see whether muscle weakness or dysfunction, rather than
vestibular dysfunction, is the cause of the symptoms. During this examination
the patient will usually undergo a neurological assessment, as well as
a simple balance test. All of these exams and tests will give doctors
a better idea of the problem and its extent so that they can help solve it.
Once the diagnosis is made, a course of treatment is discussed. Some of
the types of treatments for vestibular dysfunction include changes in
lifestyle to avoid certain drugs and medications, physical therapy and
exercise, and education on how to stay away from certain types of sensory
situations that exacerbate the problem.
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