An estimated 40 percent of people in American Fork will experience dizziness or imbalance at some point in their lifetime. Balance disorders became more common as we age, and vertigo – an extreme form of dizziness that produces a sensation of spinning or movement – is one of the most widely-reported. Vertigo can be difficult to diagnose, but a special pair of goggles may help improve the process.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a form of severe dizziness that causes imbalance, a spinning sensation, loss of coordination and nausea. It may be accompanied by headache, perspiration, vomiting, double vision, ringing in the ears or hearing loss. Because there are several different types of vertigo, each the result of a different condition, doctors often have trouble diagnosing it. A new study, published in the May 15, 2019 issue of the American Academy of Neurology’s online medical journal Neurology, offers hope that a special pair of goggles may be useful in diagnosing which type of vertigo a patient is experiencing.
Miriam S. Welgampola, MD, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia, says, “Vertigo can be a disabling condition, so an accurate diagnosis is important to effectively treat and stop the vertigo as soon as possible. Observing a person’s eye movements during an episode can help make the diagnosis, but people don’t always have an episode when they are at the doctor’s office.”
Dr. Welgampola is the author of the study and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. Her research group studied 117 people who had previously been diagnosed with one of three conditions that cause vertigo. 43 had Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance; 67 had vestibular migraines that cause vertigo; and 7 had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a condition in which calcium crystals in the fluid of the inner ear cause vertigo in response to head movements. Each participant was provided with a pair of video-oculography goggles that record eye movements during episodes of vertigo and taught how to use them whenever they experienced vertigo.
Eye movements are repetitive and uncontrolled during episodes of vertigo; they can move from side to side, up and down or around in circles. The subjects with Meniere’s disease were most likely to experience fast horizontal eye movements, which the goggles diagnosed accurately with a sensitivity of 95 percent and a specificity of 82 percent. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of positives that are identified correctly and specificity indicates the percentage of negatives correctly identified.
Subjects with vestibular migraine experienced more variable eye movement patterns. Their specificity was 93 percent, but sensitivity was low – only 24 percent. Individuals with BPPV had a perfect 100 percent sensitivity and a 78 percent specificity.
What Does This Mean For Vertigo Sufferers?
The practical ramifications of this research won’t be realized until further studies incorporating larger sample sizes are completed. Additionally, the data wasn’t entirely accurate given that some of the subjects didn’t feel well enough to wear the goggles during vertigo episodes and others didn’t bother putting them on when experiencing mild cases of vertigo. It’s also possible that some of the medications patients were taking might have influenced eye movement. Despite this, researchers believe it won’t be too long before these goggles will help patients at home record eye movements to assist with a diagnosis and treatment.
If you or a loved one are experiencing episodes of vertigo, schedule an appointment with an American Fork specialist to rule out anything serious.