Monday, January 9, 2012


I'm trying to get us back onto a routine.  It's been challenging for more reasons that just Christmas break and winter blues.  The vertigo I suffered from five years ago seems to be back.  I'm going to rattle on about that in this post, giving the history, symptoms, and possible causes.  It's gonna be long.  Obviously, you don't have to read this or any other post; feel free to skip it.  If you, too, suffer from vertigo in any form maybe you'll be comforted by the knowledge that you are not alone.  If you feel moved to pray for me, I would definitely appreciate that.

I've been susceptible to motion sickness my entire life.  Get me in a car for more than an hour, on a hot day, or on windy roads and I'd be sick.  I never actually threw up, just wished I could.  I'd read in the car just so I could feel sick faster and fall asleep.  Put me on a boat and I would throw up.  Put me on a plane and I'd feel sick too.  Now that I'm driving, I can handle car rides better but I've found that if I start out driving the damage accumulates and I get sick in the passenger seat quite quickly.  Fortunately, the discovery of ginger capsules have made car, sea, and air sickness a thing of the past.

Despite the motion sickness issues, I've always loved amusement rides and could ride them all without problems.  As an adult, I have an increasing list of rides I cannot go on.  Teacups, spinning rides of any kind, are a no go.  I have to be careful of rides that put too much force on my neck so if I ride has seats that support the head, I'm more likely to be ok riding it.  I'm sure I'll have fewer and fewer ride options as time goes on.

So, getting sick from motion is nothing new.  Having the world move on its own accord and getting sick from that is fairly new.

I'll never forget my pregnancy with Joshua.  It was the best pregnancy because my morning sickness was well controlled.  Then the vertigo hit.  I woke up one morning and the world was spinning very fast at a 45 degree angle.  I couldn't move.  I found that the only thing I could do was lay as still as humanly possible on one side. I could not lay on my stomach, back, or the other side.  Any movement, no matter how small, sent the world spinning.  As I laid there, I waited as long as possible to go to the restroom because doing so meant I'd other being peeing in the toilet and puking in a bowl, or puking in the toilet and peeing my pants.  It lasted for 48 hours.  I'd wake up on day three totally fine.  Three to six weeks later, the cycle repeated itself.

With recurring vertigo, I went to the doctor and saw my ENT.  They did hearing tests and may have done other non-invasive tests.  There were some tests that they couldn't do because I was pregnant.  We found no answers.  I was given meclizine, which didn't help, and sent home.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, the vertigo disappeared just as suddenly as it had come.  Over the next four years, I had what I would consider normal dizziness.  Sometimes if I turned my head wrong while lying down (lying on my side and turning to look behind me) or getting up too fast, I would have momentary dizziness that immediately went away.  Then we moved.

The new house grew mold on the windows during the winter.  That is common here in Washington.  However, this mold proved to be different.  Because all of the blinds were drawn, I didn't notice it.  Then I woke up with vertigo one morning.  I also somehow noticed that the windows were moldy.  I bleached the windows, and the vertigo went away, not to return for three weeks.  I woke up dizzy again and found mold in the same staged of growth as before.  Bleaching the windows resolved the vertigo for another three weeks.

We moved out of there two and a half months ago.  Almost immediately, my normally congested nose felt better.  (The other house was also very dusty.)  But in December, I got hit with vertigo pretty hard.  On day three, it was so bad that I drove myself to the doctor as soon as I was upright and safe to drive.  While there, I tried to lay down, which caused a horrible spin, quickly followed by puking, which lead to a shot of phenagren and having to call my husband to come pick us up.  The doctor gave me prescriptions for meclizine and valium and sent me home with a tentative diagnosis of Meniere's Disease (not good!).  Three days later, I was finally back to normal with the help of meclizine to help me out of bed.

Dizziness visited me again this week...for eight days.  It's been mild compared to previous bouts.  Meclizine has been my friend.  Usually I've needed it first thing in the morning (take it and stay in bed for half an hour waiting for it to work) and sometimes again in the afternoon.  But I've been partially functional in that I'm up and can make a meal or two.  This week was different, though, in that I also had a moderately bad headache all week, as well.  And I think the trigger was the ocular migraine I gave myself on Sunday by not eating lunch before 2pm (guaranteed ocular migraine trigger).

Yesterday and today have been better.  I'm not 100% but I'm definitely better.

So, all this has given me the motivation to make major changes.  If the doctor is right and I have Meniere's Disease, the vertigo will likely get worse and I'll likely lose at least some of my hearing in the affected ear (my right).  I'm not sure he is right, though, because I don't have any hearing loss that I'm aware of and I pass hearing tests just fine to the amazement of my ENT (my ear drums are in horrible shape from ear infections).  It is possible not to have hearing loss in the beginning stages though so it is possible.

Another possibility I've stumbled upon is vestibular migraines, also know as migraine associated vertigo.  Apparently, migraines can come in the form of vertigo with or without headaches.  They can also have tinnitus (I've had for many years), aural fullness, and other symptoms.  In other words, they look a lot like Meniere's. the difference is that migraines are MUCH more common than Meniere's.  I think this is more likely my issue, in part, because I had classic migraines as a teen and into my early 20's.  They are triggered by stress.  As those reduced in frequency, I started having ocular migraines.  Low blood sugar is the primary trigger for those.  It makes sense that my migraines might have morphed into vestibular ones as well.  It's certainly a possibility.

Finally, mold.  There is water damage under the wood floor by the front door.  We didn't notice until after we moved it though it is very obvious.  Who'd of thought you need to inspect the floor?  We found out after the first big rain that it was an ongoing issue.  Interestingly, that first big rain occurred three weeks before my vertigo started (see how long it took for me to get dizzy after bleaching the windows in the previous house).  We have no idea if there is mold under that floor.  I do believe it is definitely possible that mold is an issue in and of itself or is a trigger for vestibular migraines.

Now I keep saying it is possible.  I don't know how long it will take to figure out the true problem.  It could be years.  One challenge in all this is that I am unable to go through the usual testing done for people with vertigo.  I don't have the doctor's help in figuring this out.  Without medical insurance, it is just too expensive.  So, I'm on my own to research and try to figure it out on my own.

I'm starting with dietary possibilities.  We were going dairy free at least temporarily for other reasons.  Because a considerable number of people with Meniere's and vestibular migraines are helped by gluten free diets, we're dropping that as well.  I might be a factor in the reasons we are going dairy free so it won't hurt to give it a try.   We're already mostly soy free (soybean oil and soy lethicin have not been a concern).  The hardest part will be outside food; there's food at church every week, for instance.  I'm also looking at homeopathic and natural supplements.  I'm working on behavior; it's time for me to get exercise, lose weight, and get our family on a more consistent routine.  Finally, I'll be putting together a home binder (like Flylady's) and teaching my older two kids more cooking so that they can take on more responsibility on days I'm not functioning.

So, there it is.  If you read all that, you're awesome.  If you want to pray that I find a cause and suitable treatment, that would be awesome too.

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Angie said...

Have you looked into iron supplements? I have vertigo from time to time and pop an iron tablet and am usually ok next day. Good luck!