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Did you know...

Each year more than two million people visit a doctor for dizziness, and a number suffer with motion sickness-the most common medical problem associated with travel.

     Some people describe a balance problem by saying they feel dizzy, lightheaded, or unsteady. This feeling of imbalance or dysequilibrium, without a sensation of turning or spinning, is sometimes due to an inner ear problem. Others describe their balance problem by using the word vertigo, from the Latin verb "to turn." They often say they or their surroundings are turning or spinning. Vertigo is frequently due to an inner ear problem.

What is Dizziness?

What are Motion Sickeness and Sea Sickness?

     Motion sickness causes nausea or vomiting while ridin gin a moving vehicle such as an airplace, automobile, or amusement park ride. When motion sickness occurs on a boat or ship, it is called sea sickness, even though it is the same disorder. Motion sickness is usually just a minor annoyance and does not signify any serious illness. But some travelers are incapacitated by it, and a few even suffer symptoms a few days after the trip.

Anatomy of Balance

     Dizziness, vertigo and motion sickness all relate to the sense of balance and equilibrium. Researchers in space and aeronautical medicine call this sense spatial orientation, because it tells the brain where the body is in space: what direction it is pointint, what direction it is moving, and if it is turning or standing still. This sense of balance helps us relate to constant forces such as the earth's gravity and the forces of moving vehicles we ride in.

     Your sense of balance is maintained by a complex interaction of the nervous system:

     -The inner ears (also called the labyrinth), which monitor speed, acceleration and decelration, and the directions of motion, such as forward-backward, side-to-side, and up-and-down.

     -The eyes, which monitor where the body is in space (e.g., upside down, rightside up. etc.) and also the direction of motion.

     -The skin pressure receptors (called the peripheral nervous system), such as in the joints and spine, whcih tell what parts of the body are down and touching the ground.

     -The muscle and joint sensory receptors (also the peripheral nervous system), which tell what parts of the body are moving.

     -The central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which process all the information from the four other systems.

What will the physican do?

     Your doctor will ask you to describe your dizziness, how long an episode lasts, and if it is associated with hearing loss or nausea and vomiting. You might be asked for circumstances that might bring on a dizzy spell.  You will need to answer questions about your general health, any medicines you are taking, head injuries, recent infections and other questions.

     Your physician will examine your ears, nose and throat  and test your nerve and balance function. Because the inner ear controls both balance and hearing, disorders of balance often affect hearing and vice versa.  Therefore, your physician will probably recommend hearing tests (audiograms). in some cases they physician might order skull x-rays, CT or MRI scan, or special tests of eye motion after warm or cold water or air is used to stimulate the inner ear (ENG-electronystagmography). In some cases, blood tests or a cardiology (heart) evaluation might be recommended.

     Not every patient will require every test.

An ear, nose and throat specialist is a physican concerned with the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.

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