Vertigo

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24 01, 2012

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear. In most cases, Meniere's disease will affect only one ear.

The main symptoms of Meniere's disease are recurring episodes of vertigo that last anywhere from 20 minutes up to 24 hours, tinnitus (typically low-pitched with Meniere’s disease), a feeling of pressure of fullness in the ear, and hearing loss. Hearing loss may come and go in early stages of the disease but as the disease progresses there typically will be some permanent hearing loss. Symptoms will usually come on in bouts, lasting for two to three hours, and then subside, and often a series of episodes will occur followed by periods of remission.

The cause of Meniere's disease isn't well understood but is believed to be closely tied to the fluid in the inner ear. Our inner ear contains a fluid that helps us to maintain our balance and equilibrium. With Meniere’s disease there are changes to the volume and the composition of this inner ear fluid, causing problems with the healthy functioning of our ear and affecting our hearing and our balance. These changes to the ear fluid may be caused by improper fluid drainage (either because of a blockage or because of an anatomic abnormality), abnormal immune response, allergies, viral infection, genetic predisposition, or head trauma.

Meniere's disease is considered a chronic condition, and conventional treatment focuses on management: relieving symptoms and minimizing the long term impacts of the disease. Treatment includes motion sickness or anti-nausea medications for the vertigo, diuretic medications to reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear, medication injections to the inner ear to relieve vertigo, hearing aids, and rehabilitative exercises to help improve balance and coordination. Surgery may be considered in severe cases.

In Chinese medicine, Meniere’s disease is classified as a type of dizziness. There are important lifestyle factors that contribute to its development. Emotional strain, which can be caused by too much stress or by anger, frustration, or resentment, can lead to health imbalances that over time can lead to chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease. Overwork or pushing ourselves too hard without adequate rest over years can also deplete the body and lead to health issues. Diet is another important factor, as unhealthy eating particularly the excessive consumption of greasy foods or dairy products or poor or irregular eating habits can lead to problems down the road. All of these factors over time contribute to the development of health problems, which is why Meniere’s disease typically develops in middle age.

Acupuncture is a worthwhile option to consider for those suffering from Meniere’s disease. Because Western medicine has difficulty treating this condition, often people are looking for effective options to help manage the disease. The good news is that acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of Meniere’s disease and may also help to improve or resolve the condition. Treatment can help to relieve the dizziness and vertigo, tinnitus, feeling of fullness or pressure in the head, and to reduce the frequency of bouts of symptoms.

Over time and with continued treatments, acupuncture may also help to resolve the condition. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be of particular benefit to the condition as herbal formulas can help to augment the results of acupuncture. Due to the chronic nature of this condition, Meniere’s may be slow to treat and may take time to achieve lasting results. Acupuncture demonstrates that there is hope for difficult, chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St,  downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

8 10, 2010

Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common reasons adults visit their doctors. Although it may seriously interfere with a person’s day-to-day life, it is usually not indicative of a serious or life-threatening condition. Dizziness can be caused by many things such as an ear infection, stroke, migraine, heart problems, or anxiety disorders.

Dizziness in Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a symptom that can range from a very slight dizziness, sometimes only occurring when changing posture, to very severe vertigo with loss of balance as everything around the person seems to be spinning. Also, in Chinese medicine, the term dizziness includes the very common sensation of mugginess and a heavy feeling as if the head was full of cotton, with clouded thinking and an inability to concentrate.

The common factors that may lead to dizziness are emotional strain, overworking the body, and diet. Emotions such as anger, frustration, resentment, and bottled-up animosity affect the liver and over time, cause heat to accumulate in it. This type of dizziness is due to an excess in the body.

Overwork and also sexual taxation, over many years can cause dizziness by slowly weakening the kidneys. Over time the kidneys, our main storehouse and production facilty of energy, fail to create enough energy to nourish the brain, and dizziness occurs. This is considered a deficiency type. 

Diet with an excessive consumption of greasy foods or dairy products or irregular eating habits will weaken the spleen and stomach, creating a damp environment in the body and eventually an accumulation of phlegm. This dampness and phlegm then blocks the body's clear, clean qi-energy from properly circulating to the head, which gives rise to dizziness.

The severity of dizziness can vary according to the cause. For example, if the liver is the cause, the dizziness would be severe, with other symptoms that may include tinnitus, irritability, headache, red face, bitter taste, vertigo, tremors, and loss of balance. If the spleen and stomach are involved, and in an early stage before dampness and phlegm have accumulated, there would be slight dizziness, perhaps accompanying a posture change, fatigue, dull-pale complexion, and poor appetite. When phlegm has accumulated the dizziness would be accompanied with heavy-headedness, difficulty thinking and concentrating (especially in the morning), nausea, poor appetite, and a sticky taste in the mouth.

Treating dizziness with acupuncture involves looking at the underlying pattern that is causing the dizziness, and then targeting this imbalance. The idea is to treat the cause of the symptom to resolve it, treating the underlying condition rather than just the symptoms, and in this way many symptoms can be addressed and overall health is improved.

With Chinese medicine, health is based on the idea that the body is never static- our internal environment is constantly fluctuating as it responds to our external environment. We know this to be true through the study of modern medicine, and the various systems within our body that act to maintain homeostasis, or a stable norm in our body’s functioning. Chinese medicine sees disease as occurring when your body fluctuates too far from its normal healthy state and then becomes stuck in that imbalance, rather than naturally correcting the imbalance as it normally would do.

Acupuncture treatment works with your body to promote homeostasis and healing, influencing things like blood pressure, heart rate, hormones, endorphins, and sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to bring your body back into a healthy- and in this case, "balanced"- functioning state.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.