As many audiologists know, vertigo has a myriad of causes and the treatment process can be complex and time-consuming. Researchers in South Korea, however, have identified a new type of vertigo that may be effectively treated with medication.
A study, published online last week in the journal Neurology identified what they consider a new condition, called recurrent spontaneous vertigo with head-shaking nystagmus
In the study, researchers recruited 338 people who had vertigo with an unknown cause. Some of the study participants reported seldom vertiginous attacks, many with just one attack per year. Other participants had attacks two to three times a week. Several participants in the study also developed nausea, headaches and could not tolerate head movements during the attacks.
New Form of Vertigo?
To diagnose the new vertigo, the researchers had patients sit in a dark room. They then moved each patient’s head forward and shook it from side to side for about 15 seconds. After this brief head shaking procedure, researchers used videonystagmography (VNG), a procedure commonly used to measure balance function in humans, to record nystagmus, which are uncontrolled eye movements generated by the VNG testing. The nystagmus lasted longer in people with recurrent spontaneous vertigo.
Thirty-five study participants had this form of vertigo, labelled recurrent spontaneous vertigo by the investigators. This group of 35 participants with the recurrent spontaneous vertigo were compared to other study participants whose vertigo was triggered by other conditions, including Meniere’s disease. Those with the newly identified form of vertigo experienced uncontrolled eye movements for 12 seconds — twice as long as those with Meniere’s and five seconds longer than those with vestibular migraine and vestibular neuritis. Those with the new form of vertigo were also more likely to have severe motion sickness than those with other forms of the condition, according to the study authors.
Preventative medication was given to 20 of the 35 people with the newly detected type of vertigo. Of these, one-third saw their symptoms reduced or they recovered completely.
The researchers followed the new vertigo patients for an average of 12 years. Five had no additional attacks, 14 had an improvement in their condition, and only one person had a worsening of symptoms. The others’ outcomes were not revealed.
“These conditions can be difficult to diagnose and quite debilitating for people, so it’s exciting to be able to discover this new diagnosis of a condition that may respond to treatment,” said Dr. Ji-Soo Kim, a researcher in South Korea, who shared the study findings with the HealthDay News in a May 25 article posted online.