Inner Ear Problem Has Always Been Debilitating -- And It's Getting More Prevalent

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — At least once in each our lives we’ve all felt as though the room was spinning around us. Well, imagine feeling like that all the time.

It happens to millions of people each year. They are suddenly and unexpectedly hit with vertigo, an old condition making a big comeback.

“It’s discombobulating because you feel you can fall,” Francesca Del Rio told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

Del Rio said she felt as though the world was spinning all around her for a full month.

“I could not live a normal life,” she said.

She was dizzy; she was nauseous and, worst of all, she had no idea why.

“I thought it was my blood pressure or I thought it could be my heart,” Del Rio said.

She was actually suffering from vertigo.

“Anybody who has had too much alcohol and felt their bed spinning, that’s the symptoms that these patients go through,” ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Stacey Silvers said.

Ultimately, it’s an inner ear problem, Dr. Silvers said.

“There’s a couple of different causes, a virus, which can cause an inflammation of the balance nerve, and calcium crystals that can sort of get stuck in one of the inner canals of the ear,” Dr. Silvers said.

Silvers said to treat the symptoms you need to pinpoint the cause of vertigo. Specific tests can do just that. Del Rio had the most common type of vertigo, caused by tiny microscopic calcium crystals that built up in the ear canal, resulting in imbalance of fluids.

“If that fluid is slow to move, then you can be dizzy in one position or another,” Dr. Silvers said.

Doctors say vertigo can last for hours, days, or longer.

“I have had patients tell me they have had vertigo for a year or two,” Dr. Silvers said.

Despite the debilitating symptoms, Dr. Silvers said treatment is relatively easy, and involves dislodging the crystals from the inner ear.

“Just some simple balance exercises to get that crystal out of the canal and strengthen the inner ear,” Dr. Silvers said.

The exercises include turning the head from side to side at varying degrees and speed for several minutes.

“In two weeks the patients have complete resolution,” Dr. Silvers said.

“I was surprised, myself. I didn’t have any problem any longer. It was so great,” Del Rio said.

Doctors don’t know why vertigo is making such a big comeback, but said stress can be a factor, as can having a cold or even a minor injury.

Chronic, recurring bouts of vertigo are typically a sign of a more serious condition, called Meniere’s disease, which can be controlled by your diet.

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