Today we are going to answer the Frequently Asked Question, “What are the top five signs and symptoms of a vestibular disorder – or – that I may have vestibular health problems ?”

The answer is that people with vestibular health problems commonly complain of feelings of imbalance.
They may have unexplained repeated falls, or they may not have falls. They may experience dizziness and vertigo constantly or only in certain positions, or they may not experience dizziness and vertigo.

But a general feeling of unsteadiness or imbalance usually comes along with having a vestibular problem.

Other Vestibular Health Problems

Another symptom that somebody may have vestibular health problem is that as they are walking and they turn their head, they may lose their balance and stagger or veer off to the side. So if someone’s walking and they turn their head and veer off to the side that they turn, or they do a scissor step with their feet and they are unable to continue to walk straight with their head turned, that is an indication that they may have a vestibular problem.

People commonly will be driving, and turn their head while they are driving – and veer their car off out of the lane.

So all of those are symptoms of vestibular problems.

Another symptom is dizziness and vertigo in certain specific positions, such as:

When I lie down in bed I get dizzy, or
When I roll over in bed, I get dizzy.
When I bend over to tie my shoes, I get dizzy or
When I look up at the top shelf, I get dizzy.

Those are all symptoms of vestibular problems.

Another complaint that people commonly have when they experience vestibular health problems is sensitivity to complex visual backgrounds such as crowds or busy malls, shopping centers with lots of cars and things happening in the visual field. Now that may or may not present when people have a vestibular disorder, but a lot of times it does. I have seen a few cases where untreated vestibular disorders lead to a fear of leaving home or “agoraphobia,” in patients who became sensitive to busy or complex visual backgrounds.

So, to summarize, people with vestibular health problems commonly will:

1. Have feelings of imbalance (possibly fall, possibly complain of dizziness)
2. Lose their balance or stagger when they turn their head while they’re walking
3. Drive their car off of a straight path or veer off out of their lane while they turn their head while their driving
4. Experience dizziness or vertigo in certain specific positions or…

The 5th symptom that someone might have a vestibular disorder is they may experience blurry vision with high speed or unpredictable head motion.
This is commonly seen for example in a baseball player who is trying to track and follow a pitch as it’s coming over the plate, and they lose track of the ball as the ball is moving and their head is moving in a high speed unpredictable way. [Blurry vision can also occur at rest in patients with certain types of vestibular health issues.]

So it’s a blurring of the visual field, a shaking of the visual field, or an inability to actually track an object when the head is in motion. [One of my favorite words describes this symptom: Oscillopsia. Say it with me! What fun – a new word: AH-SILL-OPS-IA!]

Thank you so much for tuning in to frequently asked questions… I hope it was helpful for you to learn about the top five signs and symptoms of a vestibular disorder.



This blog is provided for informational and educational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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