Vertigo and Children: What’s the Cause and What Can Help?
Vertigo is a subtype of dizziness, and it always has a rotary or spinning sensation. Dizziness is an abnormal sensation related to your position in your environment and is often vague. It can include tilting sensations, light-headedness, motion intolerance, imbalance, floating sensations, or unsteadiness. It can be caused by central nervous system conditions, cardiovascular conditions, or systemic diseases. Vertigo, a specific type of dizziness, gives you the feeling things are rotating around you or you are rotating around objects in your environment.
Vertigo is put into two categories: peripheral or central.
- Central vertigo: This originates from a central nervous system location and may have symptoms of nervous system dysfunction, or motor, sensory, or visual symptoms. Symptoms often last longer and may increase in amount, frequency, or intensity.
- Peripheral vertigo: This type comes from non-nervous system locations and has no or few CNS symptoms. Symptoms are shorter but can be chronic in nature.
Vertigo is a symptom, not a condition. It is often the main symptom of a condition. The following are common causes of vertigo:
- Benign paroxysmal vertigo of childhood: When young children have this, they are often afraid and grasp onto people or objects. They may refuse to stand up and may have balance problems or frequent falls. Children that are a little older may have nystagmus (jerking, abnormal eye movements). They may feel anxious. They might develop migraines in the future in some cases.
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): This is thought to be caused by calcium crystals that have broken off in the inner ear and are now in the semi-circular canals, irritating the vestibular system. Oftentimes, positional therapy and exercises can help move the debris and mitigate the irritation.
- Post-head trauma
- Immune-mediated inner-ear disease
- Congenital deafness
- Post-head trauma
- Infectious diseases — such as Lyme disease and Epstein Barr virus
- Semicircular canal pathology — such as a fistula ad dehiscence
- Vestibular neuronitis or labyrinthitis — these two conditions have overlapping features, but vestibular neuronitis is usually diagnosed if the auditory function is not affected. It may be caused by viruses, such as herpes simplex.
- Tumors — such as acoustic neuroma or posterior fossa
- Hereditary ataxia
- Meniere’s disease
- Chiari malformation
- Cerebrovascular diseases — such as vestibulobasilar disease, hemorrhage, or cerebellar ischemia
- Multiple sclerosis
Another type of vertigo is due to a misperception of real dizziness that is brought about by disequilibrium, hypotension, or syncope/presyncope to name just a few.
Children and Vertigo
An interesting example shows how vertigo can affect children. An 8-year-old girl had been experiencing vertigo for 7 days off and on. Three different times she felt as if the room was spinning around her or as if she were on a roller coaster. In order to find relief, she had to lie down for about 30 minutes. Vertigo then resolved itself. She did not have an aura, tinnitus, visual changes, diplopia, or hearing loss. She was experiencing nausea and trouble walking when the episodes occurred. She remained conscious throughout the episodes, and her teacher noticed her eyes were moving abnormally (called nystagmus). She was not tired when the episodes occurred, and they usually hit in the morning and afternoon. She did well in school. Her family history revealed that her mother had a history of vertigo and migraines. There was no hearing loss, deafness, or other neurological problems in her family members. She had experienced an upper respiratory infection 3 weeks previously. She had no chills, cold sores, or other issues.
After more testing, she was diagnosed with serous otitis media and benign paroxysmal vertigo of childhood. Her doctor said that the episodes may intensify or remit. He also relayed to her parents that this type of vertigo often precedes the onset of migraines later in life. He suggested that she avoid things that aggravate the condition such as teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds, or other games that involve spinning. Checking in on her over the next year revealed that she continued having vertigo in the following month but then it resolved on its own. And she did not develop headaches.
In this case, vertigo went away without any further intervention. However, this is not true in all cases. Sometimes a professional may have to be consulted because there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. A good place to begin is by seeking the care of an upper cervical chiropractor.
Finding Natural Relief for Children with Vertigo
The underlying source of vertigo, even in children, is often due to a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine. This can happen due to a blow to the head or neck or a simple trip and fall. Some children even have damage due to the birthing process because of the way the neck was turned. This can take a few years to develop into vertigo or other health problems. The C1 and C2 vertebrae are designed to protect the brainstem from damage. But if they move out of alignment, they can actually put the brainstem under stress and cause it to malfunction. If the brainstem tells the brain that the body is in motion when it is not, vertigo can ensue.
In order to correct this problem, we use a very gentle method that is safe for both children and adults. Rather than popping or cracking the spine or neck, we encourage the bones of the neck to realign themselves more naturally. This results in a longer-lasting adjustment, helping your child get back to living a happier and healthier life as soon as possible.
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