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Treatment for Vestibular Dysfunction

Are you frequently plagued by dizziness, vertigo, motion intolerance, a persistent sense of imbalance, or unsteadiness? If so, it's possible that you may be experiencing vestibular dysfunction. The good news is that these symptoms can be effectively treated, allowing you to regain your quality of life.

Vestibular dysfunction is more prevalent than you might think. According to a recent epidemiological study, as many as 35% of adults over the age of 40 have encountered some form of vestibular dysfunction at some point in their lives. The encouraging part is that a comprehensive eye exam can often detect the underlying causes of dizziness. In fact, it has been found that 85% of cases can be attributed to inner ear disturbance (vestibular dysfunction) and can be successfully treated using Vestibular Rehabilitation.

Neuro-rehabilitation therapy presents an opportunity to retrain your brain and eyes, restoring functionality and improving your overall quality of life if you're facing visual challenges resulting from vestibular dysfunction. This therapy employs various methods and techniques to encourage both eyes to work in harmony, enabling accurate perception of visual space. Known as neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy, it has proven to be an effective treatment for alleviating or even resolving symptoms associated with vestibular dysfunction.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from vestibular dysfunction or if you experience dizziness, unsteadiness, or motion intolerance, don't hesitate to reach out to us at Child & Family Eye Care. We are here to assist you on your journey to relief and recovery.

But First, What is Vestibular Dysfunction and What Causes It?

The vestibular system is a complex network that includes the peripheral vestibular organ located in the inner ear, the vestibulocochlear nerve, the central vestibular organ, and neural connections in the brainstem. When the inner ear sends incorrect or conflicting signals to the brain, it can lead to feelings of dizziness. Consequently, individuals often instinctively restrict their movement to minimize the sensation of rocking or spinning.

What Causes Vestibular Dysfunction?

Vestibular dysfunction can be caused by various factors, such as diseases, viral infections, high doses of certain antibiotics, strokes, degeneration of the inner ear's balance function, head injuries (such as concussions, brain trauma, or whiplash), or other unspecified causes. These conditions can result in a range of symptoms that significantly impact daily life.

When the vestibular system is damaged, individuals may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Imbalance and spatial disorientation
  • Cognitive and psychological changes
  • Hearing changes
  • Vision disturbances

Concentration difficulties, memory loss, and fatigue are common accompanying symptoms of vestibular dysfunction. The brain must exert additional effort to maintain postural stability, which often compromises other cognitive functions. Some individuals with vestibular dysfunction struggle to get out of bed, perform effectively at school or work, or complete routine tasks in visually stimulating environments like grocery stores, traffic, or shopping malls. Fortunately, by undergoing Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy, these symptoms can be alleviated along with the associated dizziness.

How is Vestibular Dysfunction Diagnosed and Treated/Rehabilitated?

Due to the wide range of symptoms associated with inner-ear problems, such as vertigo, nausea, and blurred vision, individuals with vestibular dysfunction often spend years seeking answers from various healthcare professionals, only to have their symptoms misdiagnosed as sinus, eye, neurological, or psychological issues.

At Child & Family Eye Care in The Woodlands, Texas, we have a team of specialized neuro-optometrists who understand the intricate relationship between specific visual dysfunctions and a patient's symptoms and performance. Our patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a neuro-optometric rehabilitation optometrist.

During the thorough eye examination, the neuro-optometrist assesses several functions of the visual system, including:

  • Binocular vision and eye coordination
  • Accommodation and focusing abilities
  • Eye tracking and scanning proficiency
  • Visual processing and spatial awareness
  • Vision and balance connection
  • Complex visual perceptual skills, such as visual memory and interpretation of visual information
  • Visual acuity, refraction, eye health, and peripheral vision assessment

Following the examination, the neuro-optometrist creates an individualized treatment plan known as neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy. This therapy aims to address and manage visual, perceptual, and motor disorders and is suitable for patients of all ages.

The rehabilitation program combines in-office sessions with at-home exercises tailored to remediate and manage the patient's visual problems.

Vestibular Dysfunction often requires a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to neuro-optometrists, the rehabilitation team may involve neurologists, rehab physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, neuropsychologists, and audiologists.

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation for Vestibular Dysfunction:

After reviewing relevant medical documentation from specialists like neurologists or occupational therapists, our team at Child & Family Eye Care conducts a Neuro-Visual Assessment to identify and address the underlying causes of the disorder. Based on the assessment, we develop a personalized treatment plan to aid in your recovery.

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT):

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a targeted approach within the broader scope of neuro-rehabilitation therapy. VRT is a carefully designed exercise-based therapy aimed at alleviating primary and secondary problems associated with vestibular disorders. This customizable program aims to reduce vertigo and dizziness, enhance gaze stability, improve postural stability, and enhance activities of daily living.

Working closely with the neuro-optometrist, VRT therapists focus on improving visual skills while gradually introducing tasks involving different sensory concepts. The therapy includes a variety of head, body, and eye exercises designed to retrain the brain to recognize and process signals from the vestibular system, integrating them with visual cues. The specific exercises vary based on each individual's needs and condition.

VRT is based on the concept that repetitive exposure to movements that induce dizziness can eventually alleviate the symptoms. By repeatedly challenging the brain with misleading signals, it eventually adapts and reinterprets the faulty information as correct, leading to a reduction in symptoms.

The VRT program includes habituation exercises such as jumping, rapid changes in body position, and spinning in circles. Additionally, patients receive eye exercises to retrain the vestibular ocular reflex, which stabilizes vision while in motion. These exercises may involve moving the head from side to side or up and down while focusing on a specific target, helping to improve gaze stability.

The VRT exercise program is designed to be performed at home, and compliance with the program significantly contributes to positive outcomes and faster rehabilitation.

Thanks to VRT, the majority of patients (80%) experience a decrease in symptoms.

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is always available to answer any questions you may have. Contact Child & Family Eye Care to schedule a consultation with our neuro-optometrist. If you have tried other types of therapies without success, it is time to explore what our team can do for you.

Our practice proudly serves patients from The Woodlands, Magnolia, Shenandoah, Tomball, and surrounding communities in Texas. We are committed to providing exceptional care and personalized attention to each individual.

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