February 19, 1999
A new video from the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance is now available to help people recognize and seek effective care for chronic dizziness. Developed by the Center with support from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health, and distributed by the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA), the video is designed to overcome common misperceptions of balance disorders and encourage sufferers to secure treatment.
Dizziness and vertigo result in 5 million doctor visits each year in the United States and are among the three most common reasons people seek medical attention, according to VEDA. Vertigo, double vision and loss of balance are among the symptoms that can render simple tasks, like reading a newspaper or driving to work, dangerous, difficult or impossible.
"Loss of your sense of orientation -- which is what happens when you're dizzy -- is an extremely frightening circumstance, especially when it is chronic or unpredictable," says David Zee, M.D., professor of neurology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
People who are chronically dizzy average five doctor visits for their condition without satisfactory help. They often give up hope and try to adjust to a very difficult lifestyle. "We've had patients who have been sleeping sitting up for months or years," says Zee. "With the proper treatment, we often can completely relieve their symptoms."
Dizziness affects people of all ages and takes a particular toll on the elderly, says Zee. One-third of those ages 65 to 75 experience dizziness or loss of balance. Many suffer in silence, as dizziness is an inevitable part of aging. But most causes of dizziness are treatable and should not be ignored or tolerated.
"In almost every case, people can be helped," says Lloyd B. Minor, M.D., otolaryngologist and director of the Center's Laboratory of Vestibular Neurophysiology. The first step is finding the underlying cause. The culprit could be a problem within the inner ear, a seemingly unrelated disease (like atherosclerosis or anemia) or use of alcohol or certain drugs. "If the patient's primary care physician can't relieve the symptoms, a physician who is familiar with dizziness and balance problems should be able to work with the patient and his or her doctor to determine the cause and suggest appropriate treatment."
The 14-minute video, Dealing with Dizziness, describes some of the treatable inner ear conditions that can cause chronic dizziness and features patients who have recovered from serious vertigo -- the sense that one is spinning in space -- and other dizziness disorders. "Anyone with dizziness, vertigo or imbalance related to the inner ear will find compassion and support in these compelling stories," says Jerry L. Underwood, Ph.D., executive director of VEDA.
Physicians at the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance and other medical institutions are using physical therapy techniques, medications and sometimes surgery to successfully treat patients with dizziness.
To rent or purchase a copy of the video and corresponding brochure, contact the Vestibular Disorders Association at P.O. Box 4467 Portland, OR 97208-4467; phone 503-229- 7705, or visit its web site, http://www.vestibular.org.
Media interested in the video should call the Center for Hearing and Balance at 410-955-8668.