The inner ear can be malformed

The inner ear is a delicate and complex structure, so it is critical that it be formed properly.  Abnormalities in development arising prior to birth, called congenital malformations, can be associated with a complete absence of vestibular function from birth.  Milder malformations can at first be silent, only to cause progressive or sudden losses of function in childhood or later in life.   These malformations can involve the entire inner ear and affect both hearing and balance, or can be limited to just a portion of the inner ear.  They can arise because of an inherited gene defect, or can happen if the fetus is exposed to infections or toxins during the development of the ear during the first few months of pregnancy.  Often the development of the ear ceases when the infection or toxic exposure occurs, leaving the inner ear in a relatively unformed or “arrested” state.

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Chiari malformations

Chiari malformations are distortions at the base of the brain that may be present at birth or can form throughout life.  The cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination, sits just above the opening at the bottom the skull (the foramen magnum) through which the brainstem passes to the spinal cord.  In some people, the bottom edge of the cerebellum starts to sink down through the foramen magnum, where it can become pinched against the brainstem.  Although many patients notice no symptoms, this can sometimes cause intermittent or continuous dizziness and imbalance as well as other symptoms. 

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What if exercise worsens your vertigo?

It’s a mantra everywhere: exercise is good for you.  If you want to lose weight, you should diet and exercise.  If you want to slow aging, exercise is key.  But what do you do if exercise sets off vertigo?  Is the dizziness a sign you are hurting yourself even more?  Should you avoid exercise?  That depends on the kind of vertigo you are experiencing.  Let’s go over the things to look for.

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