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Stumbling Into Walls While Sober? Some Common Causes of (And Treatments For) Vertigo

If you've found yourself suffering from random dizzy spells, periodic nausea, or a level of clumsiness that causes you to bump into walls or door frames or walk as though you're still getting your sea legs, you may be dealing with one of the several disorders affecting the middle ear.

Termed "vestibular disorders," this category of conditions can impact your body's balance centers, leading to a variety of complications that may leave you unable to walk long distances, exercise, or even drive.

Read on to learn more about some of the common causes of vertigo and other vestibular disorders, as well as how you can best treat these varied conditions.

Types of Vestibular Disorders

There are several types of vestibular disorders that can strike at just about any time. These include the following:

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
Often just deemed "Vertigo," this condition can cause dizziness and loss of balance whenever changing positions (especially when standing up from a seated position or walking on a bridge or other elevated surface).

Acoustic neuroma
This condition manifests itself in dizziness and loss of balance much like vertigo, but it is caused by a benign tumor that grows on the vestibular-cochlear nerve, which is the primary nerve responsible for carrying signals from your ear to your brain.

This hard-to-pronounce condition involves an overgrowth of bone between the inner ear and the middle ear, preventing nerve signals from being transmitted effectively. 

Cervicogenic dizziness
This condition usually manifests itself as vertigo, but it is caused by a recent neck or upper spinal injury that has altered the pressure and fluid volume in the middle ear. 

Common Causes of Vertigo and Related Disorders

One of the most common causes of any vestibular disorder is an injury or illness affecting the nerves in your middle ear or the part of your brain the picks up on these signals. 

Chronic middle ear infections can cause a build-up of scar tissue within the ear, impacting the fluid balance and giving you a constant sense of vertigo. 

In other cases, the biological changes that come with aging (and the loss of many of the protective hairs that guard your inner ear) can lead to debris and fluid buildup inside your middle ear, causing BPPV. 

A sharp blow to the head or concussion can also have long-lasting vestibular effects, especially if there is any swelling in the area of the brain that specializes in processing signals from your middle and inner ears. 

Treatment Options 

Your treatment options will largely be dictated by the root cause of your vestibular disorder. If you're dealing with a tumor, bone growth, or other physical interference between your middle ear and your brain, removal of this tumor or the use of prescription drugs designed to reduce this bone growth can help you begin feeling like your normal self quickly. 

In other cases, your vertigo may be managed by medication or even at-home exercises designed to strengthen the muscles that control balance and coordination.
However, sometimes your vestibular disorder may be permanent. While there are steps you can take to minimize its impact on your daily life, you may suffer from periodic dizzy spells or find yourself dealing with other signs and symptoms of your disorder even with treatment.
It's important to become well-acquainted with your particular vestibular disorder so you'll be in the best position to monitor your own health and make changes to your routine when warranted. Seeking the services of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist can help you learn what to expect from the future and how to best equip yourself for what may lie ahead.