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Head movements bring on vertigo



DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had vertigo for one month. I can function with it as long as I am sitting up straight. When I lie down, I get dizzy. The doctor says that this has to run its course. Is there a diet I can follow? I am a completely healthy 53-year-old woman with no other ailments. Do you have any thoughts? — P.T.

ANSWER: Your brand of vertigo strongly suggests benign positional vertigo, dizziness that comes on with head motion. Looking up or down, moving the head from side to side, lying down or getting up brings on a sensation of whirling around.

A series of head movements sometimes can put an end to the dizziness. The movements are the Epley maneuvers. Sit on the side of a bed — preferably a twin bed, since your head has to extend past the opposite side of the bed when you lie down. Turn your head a 45- degree angle to the side that brings on dizziness. Keeping the head in that position, lie down and let the head bend downward about 20 degrees over the edge of the bed. Then turn the 90 degrees to the opposite side and hold there for 30 seconds. Roll over onto that side while turning the head another 90 degrees, so you face the floor, and stay there for 30 seconds. Then get back into the upright sitting position with the neck bent slightly downward for another 30 seconds. If the dizziness persists, you can repeat the procedure as needed.

I admit this is a little complicated, and if you find it too involved, have the family doctor or an ear, nose and throat doctor put you through the exercises. What these movements do is shift tiny crystals from one part of the inner ear, where they shouldn’t be, back to the part where they belong.

Benign positional vertigo is only one kind of vertigo. Epley maneuvers don’t do a thing for other causes, like viral infections or Meniere’s disease. For viral-caused dizziness, medicines like Antivert, Dramamine or Transderm Scop (the patch worn to prevent seasickness) can make dizziness less severe. A low-salt diet is helpful for Meniere’s disease.

The booklet on vertigo and balance explains this dizzying disorder in detail. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 801W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have white spots and lines on my fingernails. What causes them? Is it a vitamin deficiency? — D.

ANSWER: Those spots and lines indicate a brief pause in nail production. They’re not a sign of vitamin deficiency. Trauma to the nail can do this, and the trauma can be so slight that it never registers on your consciousness. It takes six months for a fingernail to grow from base to tip. Your spots and lines are halfway up the nail, so they should be gone in another three months. Thanks for the photo. It helped me.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

©2009 North America Synd.

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