The Complete Guide to Vestibular Dysfunction

Vestibular dysfunction is a common disorder affecting the inner ear’s function. It can cause dizziness, loss of balance, vertigo, as well as other symptoms. It can also occur due to several different factors, including age, head injury, and Lyme disease.

Vestibular dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor may suggest tests to determine if you have it. These tests can involve placing a device over your head that measures your ability to move your head.

If you have vestibular dysfunction, you may experience difficulty moving your head in different directions. Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab presents a comprehensive guide on vestibular dysfunction.

Causes of Vestibular Dysfunction

It can result from several causes. They include:

Age-related Causes

As people get old, there are changes in the vestibular apparatus which include:

  • The degeneration of the otoliths (the inner ear sensory cells that detect rotational motion)
  • Accumulation of fluid in the labyrinths
  • Loss of hair on the basilar membrane (the inner ear drum)


Vestibular tumors can be non-cancerous or cancerous. Benign tumors can cause mild to moderate vestibular dysfunction, while cancerous tumors can cause more severe vestibular dysfunction.


Vestibular dysfunction can also result from several types of injuries, including head and spinal cord injuries.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) 

This is when a person experiences sudden, brief episodes of vertigo that come and go. BPPV is most common in people over 50, and it is often caused by a change in head position, such as when getting out of a chair or turning in bed.

Meniere’s Disease 

It is a condition in which the inner ear becomes inflamed and swollen. The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. Symptoms of Meniere’s disease include hearing loss, tinnitus, as well as vertigo.

How Can it Impact Daily Life?

Vestibular dysfunction can significantly impact daily life. In fact, those with this condition may experience difficulty maintaining balance and may experience difficulty with daily activities such as walking, standing, or even sitting. It can also lead to difficulty with coordination and impact one’s ability to drive or operate machinery.

Additionally, it can affect one’s ability to participate in safe activities like swimming or riding a bike. In many cases, vestibular dysfunction can lead to significant daily problems that necessitate intervention.

How Can You Treat it?

There are many treatments for vestibular dysfunction, and each person’s symptoms and situation will vary. Some options may include medications, surgery, physical therapy, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy.


Many medications can be used to treat vestibular dysfunction. Some common medicines used can include anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, as well as anticholinergic drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may help to reduce pain and inflammation. Anti-seizure medications, such as valproic acid, may reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Anticholinergic drugs, such as atropine, may help reduce vertigo symptoms and dizziness.


Some people may need surgery to treat this condition. In fact, surgery may be necessary to correct a problem with the balance system, such as a herniation or a tumor. Various surgery options include:

a. Vestibular Shunt Surgery

This surgery removes a small amount of fluid from the inner ear, which can help improve balance.

b. Vestibular Nerve Surgery

This is a surgery that removes part of the vestibular nerve, which can help to improve balance.

c. Vestibular Nerve Prosthetic Implantation

This surgery installs a prosthetic vestibular nerve in the inner ear.

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Vestibular rehabilitation is a treatment that helps people regain their balance and coordination. This treatment typically involves sessions focusing on restoring balance and coordination and improving muscle strength and flexibility.

Final Thoughts

Vestibular dysfunction is a common disorder affecting the inner ear’s function. It can cause dizziness, loss of balance, vertigo, as well as other symptoms. There are many treatments for vestibular dysfunction such as medication and surgery which work by helping people regain balance and coordination.

To learn more about this condition, contact us today.