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I Often Feel Dizzy & Motion Sick. What Should I Do?

Dr. Habib Rizk examining a patient
Dr. Habib Rizk examining a patient.

MUSC Health Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) treats various causes of dizziness to help patients resume healthy quality of life.

Do you sometimes feel like the room is moving or spinning when you’re still? Is it sometimes difficult to sit upright? Do you experience dizziness or lightheadedness with excessive sweating or nausea? These symptoms can be disruptive and concerning, and you should seek professional medical assistance.

Is it the brain or inner ear? Is it a stroke or vestibular problem?

If symptoms are accompanied by slurred speech, drooping of the face, or weakness or numbness of the arms or legs, please seek medical assistance immediately, as these may be signs that a stroke has occurred.

Vertigo is a temporary, episodic or persistent sensation of spinning dizziness, often accompanied by sweating or nausea. Symptoms can come and go, and each episode may last from minutes to hours. Vertigo is typically a symptom of conditions with the inner ear, such as Meniere’s disease or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (crystals of the inner ear). Sometimes neurological problems can cause vertigo. Episodes can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, headaches, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), sound sensitivity or light sensitivity. There could be familial predispositions, but not always.

Indicators of inner ear-related dizziness:

• Spinning
• Dizziness
• Lightheadedness
• Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
• Hearing loss
• Fullness / pressure

How will MUSC Health ENT help?

At MUSC Health, the goal is to help patients return to a functioning, healthy quality of life.

“Many patients are experiencing enormous social, personal or professional crisis as a result of health issues and a lack of understanding and support,” says MUSC Health ENT otologist Habib G. Rizk, M.D., MSc. “Vertigo may seem like an invisible problem because you can’t see it like a cut or cold, but it’s there, an ongoing problem affecting life. Getting clinical help is very important to know what the cause is and what the optimal treatment is.”

MUSC Health ENT takes a multi-disciplinary approach to evaluating each case – this means that a group of specialists from several disciplines will weigh in to determine the best treatment plan. Your dedicated otologist (ear doctor) may collaborate with a neurologist (nervous system doctor), physical therapist (movement expert), nutritionist and pharmacist to listen to your concerns, assess symptoms and identify a diagnosis. In fact, MUSC Health is one of the few U.S. centers with a multi-disciplinary team in one location. Then your team of MUSC Health specialists will discuss treatment options with you to determine the action plan for next steps.

“I believe every physician is a counselor of sorts,” says Dr. Rizk. “Not only must we bring best-in-class clinical expertise, but we must also listen to patient concerns and unique details of each case because two people may be affected differently by the same problem.”

What are treatment options?

Patients are asked to maintain a daily journal of nutrient intake and physical activity to help identify symptom triggers. The underlying cause may be managed with treatment ranging from lifestyle changes to medication or surgery. For example, symptoms like migraines may be treatable with increased physical activity and a healthy diet with low sodium.

Meniere’s disease patients need to reduce salt intake and are often prescribed a diuretic (water pill). For severe cases, treatment may include intratympanic steroid injections, gentamicin injections (antibiotics), or surgery to reduce pressure (endolymphatic sac decompression). In rare cases, surgical labyrinthectomy may be recommended to remove parts of the ear that cause vertigo.

Vestibular schwannoma (a benign slow-growing tumor of the balance nerve) rarely causes vertigo, but most often causes hearing loss and imbalance. Treatment may entail surgery or radiation. Vestibular physical therapy (specialized physical therapy targeting inner ear functions for balance, stable posture and eye-head movement coordination) is prescribed as an adjunct treatment for nearly all cases.

MUSC Health ENT would be pleased to assist you or your loved ones. Please give us a call at 843-792-3531 to schedule an appointment with our team. We look forward to meeting you, to help you on your path to a healthy quality of life.

About the Author

MUSC Health Ear, Nose & Throat

Keywords: ENT