Category: travel


Yep, it’s still there

After I get my hair cut, my habit is to bend over in the parking lot outside the salon and rub my hair so all the little cut pieces fall to the asphalt. Now that our hairdresser comes to our house, I do the same thing over the bathtub or in the front yard. This past week after our hair cuts, I saw that my wife was about to vacuum the hair off of the bathroom floor, so I quickly bent forward to brush my hair bits onto the tile and into the path of the vacuum. Bam! Vertigo. I bounced back upright immediately and suffered no further ill effects, but I demonstrated to myself that the BPPV is still there. In my haste to beat the vacuum cleaner, I moved with greater velocity than usual, and I ended up with my head pointed straight down–a position I assiduously avoid. The symptoms, though brief, were the strong spinning sensations that I would describe as typical BPPV. This was a good reminder that I make mistakes when I rush. Body movements and habits learned over my lifetime will come to the fore when I am distracted or hurried, and I can end up in a position that triggers vertigo.

Other than that, the only other time I have had positional vertigo lately was in the doctor’s office in late January. I’d been symptom-free for a few weeks at that point, but I was concerned that his tests might trigger the vertigo. When he put me back into Dix-Hallpike I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t been in that position for a month. Nothing on the left, but on the right: bingo – nystagmus. I believe my eyes reversed after I sat up, which hardly happens at home but which correlates to the doctor’s description of “classic BPPV.” It took at least a minute for my eyes to stop “scrolling” after I sat upright, and after a time he did it again with the same results (although the scrolling was a bit shorter-lived the second time). I felt nauseous after that and sat still and quiet for many minutes before the feelings subsided and I could relax and re-engage. The doctor took that opportunity to review my MRI, which shed no light on my problems. I definitely have damage in my inner ear (vestibular testing showed that) and maybe also BPPV on top of that, some or all of the time this past year. It’s hard to know since the inner ear hypofunction can mimic BPPV, I’m told (but I don’t really understand). Anyway, the symptoms are getting better now, after 11 months. I like to think they are going away for good, but I am aware that they will likely come back over the years; I sincerely hope the frequency is never “over the months.”

Within the past few days I have noticed improvements that I’d like to share with you. Back in December, I lost my balance when my scarf blew over my face and covered one of my eyes. I also had trouble maintaining my balance when looking over my shoulder while rolling a suitcase through an airport. This past week I was rolling a suitcase along the sidewalk for a friend and looked over my shoulder with no trouble! In fact, at the time I didn’t even realize what I had done and had absolutely no sense of danger or caution. Then as I walked, my scarf blew over my right eye several times. This made me nervous; I was talking to a work colleague, and I was concerned that I might loose my balance in front of her. My hands were full and I couldn’t adjust the scarf, so I just kept walking and stayed alert. No symptoms; no problems. Hooray! Still hoping this is the End of Vertigo for me.

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On December 23 I was thrilled to go for a run with my sister. She started running in 2013, and this was our first time ever to run together. We were less than a quarter mile from her house when I suddenly got vertigo. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and spread my arms and legs for stability, then shouted ahead to where she had been pulled by her dog. “Hang on a sec!” I got my bearings and started to jog again–still too unsteady. I told my sister that I would walk home, but after a few steps I realized I needed to hang on to her. It actually felt very natural to ask to hold her elbow, and we walked back to the house.

Here’s what I think happened: while visiting my sister, I did an Epley maneuver using her pillows, which are higher than the ones I usually use. Having more extension in my neck seems to be a ticket to horizontal canal BPPV for me, and indeed for December 24-26 I felt nauseous most of the time. Snapshots from my visit:

  • holding my sister’s elbow as we walked home from an aborted run workout
  • folding a washcloth and kneeling on the floor of the bathtub in order to wash my hair (the shower head was at nose level, and I could not bend or tilt my head to get under it)
  • drinking a wine cooler through a straw to avoid tilting my head back (for those of you wondering: no, alcohol does not seem to be correlated to my symptoms)
  • my dad coming up to me in the kitchen and sweetly asking if I was OK. My wife said I looked bad, and if my dad noticed, too, then I was bad.
  • closing my eyes while watching TV and getting vertigo
  • flinging my hands out to “catch my balance” while playing cards with friends and pretending that suddenly gripping the table edge was just, you know, normal
  • moving around like a stiff-necked robot with my hands constantly on the walls or furniture for reference
  • my wife turning on and off the light over my airplane seat (I couldn’t look up to differentiate the light button from the call button). (For those of you wondering, dehydration–such as that caused by air travel, or alcohol for that matter–doesn’t seem to be correlated to my symptoms, either. I keep looking at this one, but over 11 months of data-gathering, I have no clear connection. Were that that was the problem!)
  • sleeping with my back to my wife for the entire holiday. She tells me that I spooned her in the early morning hours. What can I say? I can’t stay away from her!

I did lots of Epley’s on low pillows and finally felt well on December 27. Noticing how good I felt that day, I was saddened to realize that my family had missed this ebullient, relaxed side of myself when I was feeling so poorly. That hurts. I don’t see my family often, and I am bummed that I was less engaged during their visit. It is harder for me to talk, to think, and to be empathetic when I have strong symptoms. In the moment I notice the change, and to be honest my behavior isn’t that bad, but I am absolutely unable to overcome it.

Cue dark feelings and forebodings….but that is another post.