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The Vestibular System Blog Series: Part 2 –
Signs and Symptoms of a Vestibular Disorder

The vestibular system, which includes the central system (the brain and brainstem) and the peripheral system (the inner ear and the pathways to the brainstem) is responsible for maintaining balance, stability and spatial orientation. If you haven’t already read our previous blog post, here is a brief overview of the Vestibular System.

When the vestibular system is affected by disease or injury, the brain cannot get the correct information from them about balance and motion and a vestibular disorder can result.

Here are some common Signs and Symptoms that maybe associated with a vestibular disorder.

  • Dizziness (a sensation of light-headedness, faintness, or unsteadiness, it does not involve a rotational component)
  • Disequilibrium (an unsteadiness, imbalance, or loss of equilibrium while standing or walking)
  • Vertigo (the illusion of movement of self or the environment, has a rotational or spinning component)
  • Spatial disorientation (the sensation of not knowing where one’s body is in relation to the vertical and horizontal planes)
  • Sense of rocking or swaying, as if on a sip
  • Motion Sickness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Double vision
  • Oscillopsia (illusion of visual motion, only when eyes are open)

While a few moments of spatial disorientation, light-headedness or unsteadiness can be normal in certain situations, frequent episode of dizziness or vertigo are not. Often these are a primary sign of a vestibular dysfunction, especially when associated to changes in head and body position.

It is important to also note that dizziness can be associated with a wide spectrum of cardiovascular, neurological, metabolic, vision, and psychological problems. Vestibular dysfunction is just one possible cause and therefore a medical assessment is recommended before starting any vestibular rehabilitation.

Jennifer Harvey
Vestibular Physiotherapist
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