An alternate explanation for dizziness

Several years ago, I woke up and literally rolled out of bed. I fell over the edge while getting up – the world was turning, and I was turning with it. For over two weeks my doctor and I tried to figure out what it was. It felt like the worst flu or food poisoning ever. And then it stopped as quickly as it started. This happened two more times over the next few years until a visit to the emergency room (for an unrelated emergency) led to the diagnosis of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. What? Something so simple to identify and fix – and I had to go two years, multiple blood tests, several possible diagnoses, and a brain scan before it was discovered, by chance.


There are several possible explanations, including visual stress

What this experience taught me was that there are a lot of possible explanations for vertigo, dizziness, and nausea. And it helped me to understand what some of our clients at Opticalm have experienced prior to their assessment with us. Many of our clients have been diagnosed with vertigo or vestibular dysfunction but unfortunately, many of them have not received a treatment that has made a difference. When I hear this, I always ask if they have been checked for BPPV, and of course, recommend an investigation for visual stress.


Visual stress can lead to persistent visual perceptual issues, they are misinterpreted as vestibular in nature but are really perceptual.


Basically, if people see distortions in their environment, things may seem to be moving or off-kilter and make them feel dizzy or nauseous. A patterned floor may look to be waving, brick walls may appear to sway or bulge, door frames may vibrate, and driving may be impossible because objects everywhere are closer or further than they appear.


Visual stress, and the improper processing of visual images, can lead to symptoms that are misread and thus mistreated. Simply adding a precision filter can relieve the symptoms. Just like the simple Epley maneuvers can relieve BPPV symptoms.

I’m working with a vestibular specialist to create a communication piece about this and get it out to therapists and other health care providers that see patients/clients reporting dizziness and vertigo. They need to know so that people don’t go years without relief.  


For more information on vestibular disorders and Visual Stress see our page on Related conditions – Vestibular Disorders. You can also visit www.vestibular.org.

Opticalm Visual Stress Clinic

160 Terence Matthews Cres., Suite G1, Main Floor

Kanata ON K2M 0B2

Tel: 613-294-6437

Fax: 613-254-9206

By appointment only

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