I'm so dizzy... (an update)

...my head is spinning...

Many people know that I have been experiencing serious vertigo for over three years now. Over that time my issues with vertigo, dizziness, panic attacks and more have increased a great deal. I first wrote about it on bLog-oMotives this past January after reading about one of the leading specialists on vertigo, Dr. John Epley, in our local newspaper. Dr. Epley's clinic is here in Portland. I promised my partner Ed that when I was done writing my latest book I would contact the clinic and begin the process of diagnosis - and hopefully treatment for the condition.

When I initially contacted the clinic, I was told that it would be several months before I could have a consultation and be tested. It actually turned out that I could be seen as a patient over a month sooner that expected. This past week I had my first appointment. The following is the text of a forum posting, and email sent to family and friends, from this past Friday about that experience:

"Still feel kind of out of it after my vertigo testing experience yesterday. This morning it feels like my head has been shaken repeatedly by someone.

The major first portion of my appointment was an interview about my medical history and the past three years of vertigo experiences. The doctor wanted information about head injuries I've had in my lifetime (a fall when I was 11, a car accident in college and our car accident about 11 years ago). I guess that sometimes old accidents can manifest themselves years later as inner ear problems. I had to detail any surgeries I'd had over the years and medications I had taken. My experience with Cipro destroying ALL the bacteria in my body about six years ago, after picking up a "bug" on our travels, was detailed as it may have impacted good bacteria in my ears. I was asked a lot about my heart attack/stroke scare two years ago - which may have been somehow related to my vertigo issues. I also had to explain in detail how at times it feels that I am moving while everything around me is standing still - while the opposite is actually reality. My fairly recent panic attacks - two while in stores and two while driving - where also topics of many questions. We went into a great deal of detail how my allergies, heat, movement, high pitched noises, colors (yellow and orange) and altitude impact my dizziness and vertigo.

Then I went through some extensive hearing tests. These are the hearing tests, in the soundproof booth, that we had as a kid - except that I could hear a constant high-pitched sound from something in the electrical system. Some of the tones emitted actually caused sharp pains in my ears. The test results ended up showing that I had absolutely no hearing loss - a great thing for "someone of my age."

The next series of tests was to test the ability of my eardrums to withstand pressure. Again, some of the tests were incredibly painful. Twice the equipment shut down automatically and the audiologist said I must have some weird electrical energy in my body, as that never happens.

The next series of test almost made me ill - and I'm glad there are no photos of the process. I had to put on a vest and harness, which was then hooked up to a system that would keep me from falling, and stand on a pressure-sensitive platform in a three-sided booth. I imagine I kind of looked like a human marionette. Staring at the back wall, the platform was moved in a variety of directions. The same was then done with my eyes closed. In next procedure the walls were moved repeatedly and the platform remained steady - eye open and eyes closed. This was done again with the platform AND walls moving (almost making me sick). The eyes open and eyes closed thing was then done tipping the platform backwards violently and forwards in the same manner. Numerous times during the testing I had to grab the straps of the harness to keep myself from falling - although I wouldn't really have fallen. When all was done I still felt like I was moving for a couple hours afterwards. It's a good thing they have handrails in the hallways of the office. On these tests I scored a 60, when a 70 is "normal" for "someone of my age." The tester explained that this indicates that there really is something going on - and it's not all in my head (although it is all in my head). When I asked a woman about the test score later, with a smile she said "it means you're not normal."

Dr. Epley, one of the leading vertigo specialists in the U.S., then interviewed me himself, clarifying and asking questions about a lot of the earlier answers I had given. I immediately liked this man. He was very conversational, engaging and asked a lot about my work as a designer and a writer, in addition to the requests for medical information. He was also curious about how acupuncture and chiropractic treatments has alleviated some of my vertigo symptoms over the past three years. He also did a series of examinations and additional basic balance tests - like having me walk down the hall with my eyes closed. It was then back to the harness apparatus for tests on how sound and air pressure impacted the movement in my eyes. I had to wear what they called "field glasses" (actually a camera that looked like binoculars) that filmed my eye movements as high-pitched sounds were piped into some headphones. Another headset was then used to force air into my ear canals as the camera recorded my eye reactions.

When done the doctor said he suspects I have a condition called "hyperactive labyrinthine dysfunction" - a condition in which an ear labyrinth is in an abnormally sensitive state with respect to certain stimuli and/or inputs. (More appropriately called "irritable labyrinth", in that the labyrinth becomes easily "irritated" by non-vestibular stimuli such as sound or pressure change). However, he said much more testing is necessary before a possible treatment can be recommended. So, next Wednesday afternoon I will go through a more testing - including a video stimuli test and possible tests in the Omniax "chair" that Dr. Epley has developed.

I was so exhausted when I got home that I slept 2+ hours yesterday afternoon. Today I feel as if I'm in a fog or almost moving in slow-motion. At least the process has begun and, after all this time, I know I'm not completely crazy in regards to my health issues."

Over the past weekend I continued to feel the effects of some of the testing. I do go back to the clinic on Wednesday afternoon for additional tests. Then next week I have a review of all the test results with Dr. Epley. Hopefully those findings will lead to some treatment for my vertigo issues.

© 2007 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives


lynne2363 said...

Are you aware that many individuals taking Cipro and the other fluoroquinolone antibiotics experience vertigo as one of the many adverse drug reactions? There are many websites and a yahoo group that describe these adverse effects. I've had severe vertigo since taking Cipro and haven't had any of the drug for over a year and a half. I now use a walker and would literally fall down if I wasn't holding on.

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

Lynne - Yes, it's been one of the things the doctor is researching in my case - because of Cipro's possible negative impact on the inner ear. As he explained to me, with a suppressed immune system, brought about due to issues with Cipro, the inner ear may be more susceptible to infections or viruses that may cause damage affecting balance. Thanks for your message. I do hope your health improves. It's back to the clinic for more tests for me today.