New Guidelines For Vertigo Will Help Prevent Misdiagnoses and Overtreatment

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If you've ever experienced vertigo, you know how alarming and discombobulating it can be. But because its something that often comes and goes, doesn't tend to last more than a few years, and is sometimes just a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, many people just grin and bear it.

The most common form of vertigo is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV. Its a sensation of motion that tends to last anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, typically provoked with looking up to a top shelf or rolling left or right in bed. On top of that, some people also experience nausea or vomiting, plus a rapid heartbeat and double vision.

And those issues can lead to other serious problems like trouble walking, depression, disinterest in everyday activities and fatigue.

Doctors say complaints of dizziness are extremely common. In fact, it's estimated that more than 40 percent of older Americans will experience dizziness at some point that is serious enough for them to see a doctor.

And some of those patients will be diagnosed with BPPV. But more often than not, it is misdiagnosed due to unstandardized diagnostic steps and a lack of knowledge regarding treatments options.

Identifying the cause of dizziness and balance problems is notoriously difficult. This is why Michael Seidman, MD, otolaryngologist and a head and neck surgeon at AdventHealth, along with 24 other professionals, including neurologists, surgeons, statisticians and physical therapists, patient advocates from around the country, has established new guidelines for diagnosing patients with BPPV. These guidelines, which took 18 months to create, will be presented September 18 at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery 2016 Annual Conference in San Diego, California. 

These guidelines help clarify for the family doctor and primary care physicians how to make a diagnosis, says Dr. Seidman. The patient does not need CT-scans or a head X-ray. 

Fortunately, there are exercises to alleviate vertigo as well as in office maneuvers that Dr. Seidman offers. One is called the Epley maneuver, where the crystals in the inner ear are put back to their appropriate position, he explains. This works 90 percent of the time, and its an in-office procedure. If the vertigo is debilitating, the patient can have surgery on the semicircular canal.

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