Dizzy Me, a guidebook about vertigo for patients and doctors
21 November 2014
Prof. Floris Wuyts, balance specialist at the University of Antwerp, and Tania Stadsbader, who suffered from vertigo for 14 years, have written a book about chronic dizziness.
Stadsbader, now 44, from Herne, Flemish Brabant, started suffering from vertigo at 23. She visited many specialist and doctors, was diagnosed with many different diseases, but nothing seemed to change. At its worst moments, the vertigo left the mother of three bed-bound for days on end. “A simple head movement could cause the room to spin around violently for a couple of seconds, followed by hours or even days of extreme nausea, vomiting and feeling very sensitive to noise and light”, she explains.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Stadsbader began looking for information and help online. That’s when she found an article in the Flemish science magazine EOS that mentioned Professor Floris Wuyts, head of the Antwerp University Research Centre for Equilibrium and Aerospace. She booked an appointment and in 2007 she was finally diagnosed with BPPV - Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.
The cause of vertigo can be found partly in our inner ear, in the vestibular organ. “This organ detects every movement our heads make, and the brain uses this information to stabilise our eyes,” Wuyts explains. “For instance, when you’re sitting down, your brain makes an internal image of the position, based on information from your eyes, muscles and vestibular organ. But when one of the sources is wrong, say, the vestibular organ, there’s an illusion of movement, and your surroundings start to spin.”
Wuyts uses the image of a snow globe to explain the inner workings of the vestibular organ. “There are crystals in your vestibular organ embedded in a gelatinous structure. But sometimes they get loose and start floating around every time you move – a bit like the snowflakes in a snow globe,” he says. “This causes dizziness, called BPPV in medical terms – Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.”
Recovery and blogging
The disease can be managed with the so-called Epley manoeuvre, a series of twists and turns to the body and head, executed by a specialist, that are meant to put the crystals in the vestibular organ back in the right place.
“Tania Stadsbader was one of the rare cases where repeated Epley manoeuvres didn’t cure the dizziness,” Wuyts says. “The only way the crystals could be stopped from floating the wrong way was by putting a plug in one of the canals of her inner ear and thus blocking their passage.”
Since her recovery from the canal-plugging operation in 2008, Stadsbader has kept an online diary. Under the pen name Dizzy Me, she blogged about her experiences and her road to recovery.
“I wrote in Dutch but noticed I got visitors from all over the world,” she says. “I got emails from people from as far away as the US and Egypt, and when I looked at all the search words used on the blog, I knew there were a lot more people suffering from this than I thought.”
From blog to book
Stadsbader bundled her blog into an e-book and contacted Wuyts for feedback. He loved the idea and even decided to handle the scientific part of the book. “In 2010, we published the first version of Dizzy Me with my diary and medical and scientific information from professor Wuyts,” says Stadsbader.
A few weeks ago, the second edition of Dizzy Me was published. The first one completely sold out, and since research into dizziness had resulted in new insights, the medical part required significant updates. “In our Western and career-driven society, there’s no space for feeling dizzy, which is why there’s been quite some research over the last couple of years,” Wuyts explains.
For patients and doctors
The updated medical part makes Dizzy Me a very useful resource for doctors. “A thorough patient case history is mandatory and based on the eight questions of the so-called ‘So Stoned-list’, as described in the book,” Wuyts explains. “Doctors should be able to rule out more easily what kind of dizziness their patients are suffering from.”
In addition to helping doctors with the diagnostic process, the book, by way of Stadsbader’s story, also offers readers a reminder that vertigo can be cured. “Whereas the diary in the first edition may have depicted me as a victim, I’m definitely a survivor in the second edition,” she says, laughing. “In the first edition, the cover shows me with my feet in the sand; in the second I’m in high heels on top of a wall! I explain everything about how my life has changed and how I got a new job.”
Dizzy Me is published by ASP in Dutch. Currently they are working on an English translation of the book.