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Common Vestibular Disorder Symptoms

Vestibular conditions cause a wide range of symptoms, and the type and intensity of the symptom will vary person to person.  The symptoms will affect a person’s ability to complete routine daily tasks, go to work or school, undertake leisure activities and/or socialise.  Patients can become more dependent on others and subsequently feel low or anxious.  The most common symptoms include:

1. Vertigo and dizziness


Vertigo is an illusionary sense of movement, either seeing the world move or feeling like the person themselves are spinning.  Conversely, dizziness indicates light headedness, floating, a swimming head, wooziness or a rocking sensation.


2. Imbalance and instability


Patients may report stumbles, veering when walking, unsteadiness when turning around or changing direction.  These balance problems will be more notable when moving quickly.  As a result, patients will tend to hold onto items or people more for support, slow their movements down and look to the floor when walking.  They may struggle to judge depth and distances and appear clumsy.  The extent of imbalance can vary, with physical falls possible. 

3. Visual disturbance


Blurring of vision, difficulty following and focussing on objects, bouncing vision when moving around or reading are common visual problems patients may experience.  Additionally, patients may feel disorientated and overwhelmed in busy places such as supermarkets, crowds, when looking at scrolling PC screens or complex patterns, otherwise known as visually induced dizziness (traditionally visual vertigo). 


4. Changes in thinking and concentration


Patients with balance and dizziness problems need to work harder and use more attentional resources to complete what should be automatic, everyday movements and tasks.  They commonly report problems concentrating, a brain fog, difficulty remembering information, forgetfulness, disorientation, difficulty multi-tasking and problems understanding information.  Understandably, they can become concerned they have another cognitive problem; however, this is usually ruled out if investigated. 


5. Changes in emotional state


The vestibular system is linked to the emotional centres in the brain, therefore anxiety and depression are common symptoms of a vestibular condition.  Secondary anxiety and depression also arise from the impact of the symptoms experienced and overall impact on the persons life and independence.  Low mood and anxiety can impact on rehabilitation benefit and overall outcome.  Therefore, it is important patients receive support, which may include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation, mindfulness, and/or taking medication. 

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