From the late 1960s through to the early 1980s, one of the stars of the AFL was a dynamic footballer Brent Crosswell. A four-time premiership player – twice at Carlton and twice at North Melbourne – Crosswell was athletic and exciting.
His life then and his life now couldn’t be further apart. For 27 years, Crosswell has been unable to leave his home state of Tasmania. He suffers from Meniere’s disease and, for much of those 27 years, he has simply rested on a couch, unable to walk, talk, read, write or even watch television.
In the words of his son, Sam, he was simply waiting for the end.
Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that makes the sufferer feel as if the world is spinning. It can also cause ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss.
For Crosswell, it was so severe that simply standing up was out of the question. He would feel unwell and lose balance.
There is much we don’t now about this disease. The cause is unclear and there is no cure. Symptoms are believed to occur as a result of increased fluid build-up in the labyrinth of the inner ear, and treatment is virtually limited to medications that reduce nausea and anxiety. The condition is believed to have genetic links.
For most people, Meniere’s disease comes in the form of regular attacks with vertigo being the major symptom.
Vertigo can vary in its impact, from feelings of dizziness to attacks so severe you can’t stand up and, if you try, you fall over. Meniere’s disease is the extreme form of vertigo and affects only one to two people in every 1000.
Vertigo is more common. It is often wrongly referred to as “a fear of heights”, but it is a symptom related to dizziness and a feeling that the earth is spinning. It can occur at any age, but is more common in people aged 65 and over, and can be temporary or long term.
The Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery says that self-reported cases of dizziness and vertigo exceed 36 per cent of Australians aged over 50 and that symptoms can lead to a complete loss of confidence.
“Attacks are frightening, may lead to falls, and are often misinterpreted by those around them as intoxication,” the society reports. “These individuals, and those afflicted with other types of chronic imbalance, find that normal daily activities are difficult to maintain.
“Simple tasks such as going to the shops may make sufferers feel unwell and cause considerable anxiety. These factors lead to social isolation, reduced productivity and high levels of anxiety and depression.”
While time and rest are the most commonly prescribed recovery methods, vertigo can be treated with drugs such as antihistamines to curb motion sickness and nausea, or steroids or antiviral drugs to combat inner ear infections.
Your health professional is your starting point if you have issues. And check in regularly to ask if there are any developments in the field.
Has dizziness had an impact on your life? What measures have you tried for relief?
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