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What are vestibular disorders?

The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease or injury damages these processing areas, vestibular disorders can happen. Vestibular disorders can also result from or be worsened by genetic or environmental conditions, or occur for unknown reasons.

How common are vestibular disorders?

One recent large epidemiological study estimates that as many as 35% of adults aged 40 years or older—approximately 69 million people—have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of vestibular disorders?

If the system is damaged by disease, aging, or injury, vestibular disorders can result, and are often associated with one or more of these symptoms, among others:

  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Imbalance and spatial disorientation
  • Vision disturbance
  • Hearing changes
  • Cognitive and/or psychological changes
  • Other symptoms

The type and severity of vestibular disorder symptoms can vary considerably and difficult to describe. Individuals affected by vestibular disorders may be perceived as inattentive, lazy, overly anxious, or seeking attention. Functioning at work or school, performing routine daily tasks, or just getting out of bed in the morning may be difficult.

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes vestibular disorders?

A balance disorder may be caused by viral or bacterial infections in the ear, a head injury, or blood circulation disorders that affect the inner ear or brain. Many people have problems with their sense of balance as they become older. Balance problems and dizziness also can result from taking certain medications.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for vestibular disorders?

Factors that may increase your risk of getting this condition include:

  • Age: Older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that cause dizziness, especially a sense of imbalance. They’re also more likely to take medications that can cause dizziness.
  • A past episode of dizziness: If you’ve experienced dizziness before, you’re more likely to get dizzy in the future.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How are vestibular disorders diagnosed?

Doctors may use information from a person’s medical history and perform physical examination as a basis for ordering diagnostic tests to assess the vestibular system function and to rule out alternative causes of symptoms. Then your doctor may order some tests, include:

  • Electronystagmography (ENG): It refers to a group of tests or test battery, and uses small electrodes placed over the skin around the eyes during testing. This test can measure eye movements to evaluate signs of vestibular dysfunction or neurological problems
  • Rotation test: Rotation tests are another way of evaluating how well the eyes and inner ear work together. These tests also use video goggles or electrodes to monitor eye movements.
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE): OAE testing provides information about how the hair cells of the cochlea are working by measuring the responsiveness of hair cells to a series of clicks produced by a tiny speaker inserted into the ear canal.
  • MRI: MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce cross-sectional images of body tissues being scanned. An MRI of the brain can reveal the presence of tumors, stroke damage, and other soft-tissue abnormalities that might cause dizziness or vertigo.

How are vestibular disorders treated?

Based on the symptoms, medical history and general health, a physical examination by a qualified doctor, and diagnostic test results, the form of treatment prescribed for vestibular disorders.

  • Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT): VRT uses specific head, body, and eye exercises designed to retrain the brain to recognize and process signals from the vestibular system and coordinate them with information from vision and proprioception.
  • Home-based exercise: Home exercises are often a vital part of treatment. Appropriate VRT exercises will be assigned by the physical or occupational therapist to be performed at a prescribed pace, along with a progressive fitness program to increase energy and reduce stress.
  • Dietary adjustments: Many people with Ménière’s disease, secondary endolymphatic hydrops, and migraine-associated dizziness think that certain modifications in diet are helpful in managing their disorder
  • Medication: The use of medication in treating vestibular disorders depends on whether the vestibular system dysfunction is in an initial or acute phase (lasting up to 5 days) or chronic phase (ongoing)
  • Surgery: When medical treatment isn’t effective in controlling vertigo and other symptoms caused by vestibular system dysfunction, surgery may be considered.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vestibular disorders?

There are some useful tips that help you prevent vestibular disorders:

  • Do not fly on an airplane if your sinuses or ears are infected or blocked due to illness.
  • Avoid reading or working on a computer while you are a passenger in a moving vehicle, such as a car, bus or train.
  • Don’t forget to bring your sunglasses and/or a hat if your vestibular problem results in sensitivity to light.
  • No matter where you go, avoid rush hour.
  • Avoid loud background music.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: April 14, 2017 | Last Modified: April 14, 2017