If you have ever experienced a sensation of dizziness or imbalance, you are hardly alone. Approximately 4 out of 10 people in Salem have had at least one dizzy episode at some point in their lives, and vertigo is especially common. It can be tricky to diagnose, but a new type of goggles could help give your doctor an assist in figuring out the source of your imbalance.

Understanding Vertigo

Mature woman with head in hands and eyes closed, close-up

Vertigo is a feeling of movement that occurs when you remain perfectly still. In addition to the sensation that your environment is spinning, you may experience a variety of symptoms including unsteadiness, loss of balance and coordination, nausea, vomiting, headache, double vision, tinnitus and hearing loss. Vertigo is a generic term; there are actually several different types, ach caused by a different underlying condition. This is what makes diagnosing vertigo so problematic for your ENT doctor in Salem.

A study published in the May 15, 2019 issue of the American Academy of Neurology’s online medical journal Neurology provides hope that a new pair of goggles might help identify which type of vertigo patients are experiencing without even requiring a trip to the doctor.

Miriam S. Welgampola, MD, PhD, the study’s author, 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 based out of the University of Sydney in Australia and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. She and her research group looked at 117 people who were diagnosed with one of three conditions that cause vertigo: vestibular migraines (67 patients), Meniere’s disease (43 patients) and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV (7 patients). All were outfitted with a pair of video-oculography goggles designed to record the repetitive and uncontrolled eye movements that are a telltale symptom of vertigo. These different movements, which may occur from side-to-side, up and down or around in circles, are useful in determining the type of vertigo a patient is experiencing. Vertigo is measured on a scale that determines sensitivity (the percentage of positive eye movements correctly identified) and specificity (the percentage of negative movements correctly identified).

The patients with Meniere’s disease typically experienced fast horizontal eye movements; their goggles had a sensitivity of 95 percent and specificity of 82 percent. Vestibular migraine sufferers, by contrast, experienced eye movements with more variable patterns; their specificity was 93 percent, but the sensitivity was only 24 percent. Patients with BPPV had a perfect 100 percent sensitivity and 78 percent specificity.

These numbers might not mean much to the average person in Salem, but they have ear, nose and throat doctors pretty excited over the possibilities of having another tool at their disposal to help in the diagnosis of vertigo – especially one that can be used at home. Data could then be transmitted to the doctor for evaluation and a determination of what type of treatment would work best. More testing is needed before the goggles are approved for the general public, but the potential is there.

If you are experiencing episodes of vertigo, make an appointment with a Salem audiologist to learn about treatment options.

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