Vertigo is not quite the same as dizziness. With vertigo, you feel as though your head or the room is spinning; when you’re dizzy, you feel unsteady, but with no spinning sensation. (You can, however, have vertigo and dizziness at the same time.) Vertigo is sometimes also accompanied by blockage in the ear, buzzing noises, nausea and vomiting. A disease of the cochlea, the hearing mechanism in the middle ear, can cause vertigo. So can a disturbance in the balance-regulating portion of, the ear known as the vestibular system. Nerve damage in the inner ear is another possible cause. But there’s another cause that doctors rarely consider. Allergy.
‘Vertigo can affect children or adults who have an inner ear allergy which affects their sense of balance,’ says Dr Doris J. Rapp, in her book Allergies and Your Family. This type of allergy can be triggered by foods, drugs, chemicals or particles like dust, pollen and moulds.
Albert Rowe, Jr, an allergist in San Francisco, tells of a sixty-year-old woman who had disturbing attacks of vertigo for twenty years, along with episodes of colitis. An elimination diet designed to control her food allergies and cure her colitis also put an end to her vertigo.
Dr Rowe also tells of a man who frequently experienced falling sensations, along with migraine headaches. Tests showed he had no central nervous system defect or other neurological problem to otherwise explain the vertigo and headaches. By avoiding some fruits, vegetables and nuts – to which he was allergic – the man rid himself of both problems.
Other doctors tell similar stories of people who overcome vertigo by avoiding such common allergens as chocolate, milk, wheat, corn or orris root (a common fragrance). If you have allergy-induced vertigo, relief will depend on finding out what bothers you and avoiding those triggers.
Miscellaneous health problems
Eyes: blurred vision, sensitivity to light, weeping
Respiratory: hacking cough, laryngitis
Gastrointestinal: burping, dry mouth, metallic taste in mouth, rectal itching, thirst
Urinary: frequent, urgent or painful urination
Emotional/Mental: floating sensations, forgetfulness, mood changes
General: chills, tingling, weakness