Back in 2005, while on holiday in the UK, I woke up to find the world spinning. I was fine if I closed my eyes, but if I opened them things started revolving, I couldn’t keep my balance, and I felt nauseous. All I could do was lie in bed and occasionally crawl to the toilet. By the end of the day the spinning had eased, but I felt headachy, washed out and, strangely, very hungry.
In a weird co-incidence, back at home, on the other side of the globe, my mum was having the same problem. You see, vertigo seems to be a curse I inherited from my mum, and she from her mum. Nana had Meniere’s disease and the operation to fix it rendered her deaf in one ear. I’d have mild dizziness before 2005, but never this bad. I’ve only had it that bad a few times since, when I had a cold or sinus infection.
Yesterday I had a mild bout. I only got dizzy if I moved too quickly or tilted my head. But on top of a very sore back – which I couldn’t do my usual stretching exercises because they involve tilting and turning my head – it wasn’t a fun day. I could still sit at the computer, as I wasn’t so bad that the eye movement of reading brought on nausea. So I decided to look up vertigo and Meniere’s disease, so see if there were any prevention and treatment tips I hadn’t tried yet.
There must be a term for looking up a health problem on the internet then freaking out. I can tell I’m doing it, but am powerless to look away. It kinda goes like this:
Do I have Meniere’s? I’ll look it up. Well, I do have a lot of the symptoms. I’m a classic Stage One, with a bit of Stage Two. But as so often happens, some of the symptoms are common to a lot of diseases and conditions. Trouble is, it’s very hard to diagnose. You have to be in the middle of a bout, and be able to get to someone who can test you at a time when you really shouldn’t be driving. But Nana had it. Does that mean it’s more likely Meniere’s is the cause of my vertigo? Wait… it says here that it will lead to eventual deafness. And collapsing suddenly and without warning. Yikes. But it might not be Meniere’s. In a quarter of cases of vertigo a cause is never found. In a small percentage it’s a brain tumour… well, at least I know it isn’t that. It would have killed me by now. Oh, this is ridiculous. I really need to get away from this computer.
Later my back was doing something that started back when I had chronic fatigue: my spine itches. Not my skin, but somewhere deeper. It’s like the itch you get when a wound is healing. So I decided to look that one up, and I get Spondylitis. And I go through the whole mental process again. I picture myself telling my doctor ‘I was looking up my symptoms on the internet the other day and…’ and I return to sanity.
But it’s interesting how, with both of these conditions, they have the same diet advice: avoid caffeine, fat, smoking and alcohol. Sometimes I wonder if that would prevent everything.
One thing I do know: vertigo sucks.