Is the Room Spinning?


SEATTLE. (Ivanhoe) — One out of three adults in our country over the age of 40 have experienced some sort of vestibular dysfunction. In many cases that means they’ve had vertigo.

Mary Lou’s Szatkiewicz mornings used to be a stomach-wrenching nightmare.

“I woke up and the room was spinning around and I was nauseous and vomiting for three days,” described Szatkiewicz.

Like millions of other Americans, her vertigo stems from a vestibular disorder.  It took a few months, but she finally found help.

Vicky Lerner, PT , a vestibular specialist at University of Washington Medicine, told Ivanhoe,  “She had a particularly challenging case because both of her ears were affected so we had to work to treat both sides.”

Vertigo causes people to feel like the room is spinning.  Szatkiewicz had the most common, BPPV, and insurance covered her treatment.

“In BPPV you have calcium crystals out of place in inner ear and what we need to do is put them back into place,” described Lerner.

Other imbalances cause different types of vertigo. With Meniere’s disease, there’s too much fluid in the inner ear. Other vertigos stem from migraines, inner ear infections. Some dizziness is caused by neck problems called cervicogenic .

It’s important to find out what type of vertigo you have and to make sure it actually is vertigo and not some other medical problem.

“Patients can have dizziness coming from a lot of different causes so it’s important to have their physician or primary care provider to determine if it is truly coming from a vertigo and an inner ear vestibular problem or if it could be coming from another problem,” said Lerner.

If it is vertigo, also talk with your doctor about your Vitamin D levels. One study published in an European journal found BPPV vertigo can be related to low Vitamin D levels.

Contributors to this news report include: Nicole Sanchez, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Jeff Stern, Videographer.


REPORT #2380

Vertigo is the sensation that the world around you is spinning. Approximately 63 million Americans suffer from this condition each year. There are three different types of conditions that cause vertigo and most of the time the symptoms of all of these include: dizziness, nausea, abnormal eye movements, headaches, sweating, and ringing in the ears or hearing loss. 


CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE VERTIGO: Vertigo is caused by an inner ear problem, otherwise known as a vestibular system disorder. The most common causes are:

  • BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which is the most common type. This one occurs when the present calcium carbonate crystals in the ear are dislodged from where they should be and move into a different part of the inner ear. When the person moves their head, the fluid in the ear signals the brain that they are moving but the eyes and other parts of the body do not receive these signals so the sensation of the room spinning occurs.
  • Meniere ’s disease is not as common and it occurs when there’s buildup of fluid or change of pressure in the ear. This one causes vertigo, as well as ringing in the ears and/or hearing loss.
  • Vestibular neuritis is normally caused by an ear infection. The infection causes inflammation around the nerves that are in charge of helping the body sense balance.

Other less common causes that can produce vertigo are: head or neck injuries, stroke or tumors, certain medications that cause ear damage, or migraine headaches.

(Source: Vicky Lerner, P.T. &

TREATMENTS: The treatment for vertigo will depend on what’s causing it. The treatment for the most common type, BPPV, consists of moving the calcium crystals from where they are out of place back to place where they are supposed to be. Since the crystals can be in three different places of the ear, the treatment will also depend on where they are. Furthermore, research found most of the times BPPV can be recurrent due to low Vitamin D levels, but each case is different. Medication and surgery are other treatments for vertigo and insurance does cover most of the cases.

(Source: Vicky Lerner, P.T. &

MORE FROM VICKY LERNER, PT:  “Sometimes the calcium crystals get dislodged from where they should be and move into a different part of the inner ear. Then when someone moves their head in the wrong way, they may experience a sensation of vertigo (typically described by the person as spinning)… Treatment involves moving the calcium crystals from where they are out of place back to the place where they are supposed to be. This involves a series of specific head motions. The calcium crystals can be out of place in three different places in each inner ear. The treatment is specific to exactly where the crystals are out of place…For simple cases of BPPV, most people will have complete relief from their vertigo within 1-3 treatment sessions… A study in a European Journal found that in people with low vitamin D levels, taking vitamin D supplementation can reduce the chance for recurrence. I usually advise people to talk to their doctor about the vitamin D supplementation, if I think it is a relevant concern.  There are a few medical conditions where vitamin D supplementation is contra-indicated, so I would not recommend vitamin D supplementation for everyone with BPPV.”

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