“I was dizzy for over ten years…”
In 2002, Lydia Volek had a sudden onset of dizziness and was told she would probably never get better. After learning to live with it for over a decade, Lydia stumbled upon a study to treat dizziness at NeuRA. As our guest blogger this week, Lydia tells us how participating in this research turned her life around in just a few short minutes.
Lydia: My dizziness appeared suddenly and was extremely unpleasant. I couldn’t look up without everything spinning and when I bent down I felt like I was going to fall on my head. It’s not very pleasant, I can tell you that much. I had to be really careful getting in the bath or on the bus; I had to watch my steps and not do anything too quickly.
I was really frustrated to begin with and then I became worried about what it might mean. The specialist told me my condition was benign and probably wouldn’t get worse – but also may not get better. The treatment I received didn’t really help that much and so I started to learn to live with it. When you know that you don’t have a choice, you just wipe it from your mind and keep going – that’s all you can do.
I felt dizzy on and off for over 10 years – probably more on than off. This was how I lived until I heard about the study at NeuRA and thought ‘Ah! This might be the way for me!’
Lydia was assessed by the study team from the Falls and Balance Research Group at NeuRA. They recorded her medical history and levels of anxiety and depression; they tested her vision, strength and balance and measured her cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, and inner ear function.
The team determined that the cause of Lydia’s dizziness was a displacement of calcium crystals in her inner ear – a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. She was offered physiotherapy to remove the dislodged particles.
Lydia: The treatment I received was very easy and simple; the physiotherapist rolled my head in a certain way and was finished in a few minutes. I felt very good straight away; I could turn around with my eyes closed and not feel like falling. I was so surprised! To tell you the truth, in that moment I thought, my goodness, why didn’t anyone tell me about this before? But I suppose that’s why they’re doing this research.
Now, a few weeks later, my vertigo is still gone. I can look at the sky and see the birds in the tops of the trees and not feel like I’m going to fall over. It’s little things like this that make a big difference to my life. From now on, if I meet someone who’s been told to live with dizziness, I’m going to tell them to go and get treated. There is life beyond this!
A comment from the NeuRA study team: We believe that Lydia’s condition was not properly treated when she first experienced symptoms. What probably happened was the dislodged particles in her ear canals were not completely removed, which led to a continuation of her symptoms.
Dizziness can be physically debilitating and extremely distressing. Despite being relatively common in middle-aged and older people, we don’t fully understand its causes and, as a result, sufferers often receive a wrong diagnosis or inappropriate treatment, with little or no relief of their symptoms.
With this study, we hope to come to a better understanding of the causes of dizziness. We are also assessing the effectiveness of individually tailored treatment plans that include one or more therapies; currently, many patients are offered only one of these therapies and continue to experience symptoms because their dizziness has not been completely treated.
The therapies we offer the participants in our study, depending on their assessment, are:
- vestibular rehabilitation for peripheral vestibular (inner ear) conditions, administered by a physiotherapist;
- a home exercise program for balance, strength and walking impairments;
- cognitive-behavioural therapy for those people experiencing anxiety and depression;
- a comprehensive medical and medication assessment by a clinician for those people with other medical conditions, such as low blood pressure, or those experiencing side-effects from medication.
We hope that by improving how we diagnose the causes of dizziness, and by offering an individualised selection of treatments, we can improve the quality of life for the many Australians like Lydia who have been told that they just have to learn to live with the condition.
Read more about the study here on Australian Ageing Agenda.