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Giddy? It's perhaps a ringing ear Tuesday, February 20, 2001
AHMEDABAD: Thirty-year-old Savita Kumar is worried sick about the mysterious giddiness she is suffering from these days. It started on Black Friday when she suddenly fell unconscious on the floor while trying to escape the devastating quake that rocked her seventh-floor apartment in Satellite, forcing her fear-struck husband and two kids to abandon the idea of fleeing and try helping her regain consciousness instead.
"I have these terrible spells of giddiness throughout the day. If they continue, I fear I will put my life and that of my family in danger in case another quake strikes", says Savita voicing her concern.
Savita's mysterious ailment is not isolated. Alarmed by this constant feeling of giddiness for the past fifteen days now, 40-year-old Surjit Singh has got almost all medical tests done including cardiograms and blood and urine analysis in his desperate pursuit to get to the root-cause of this sudden illness.
"All tests are normal and doctor says it might be a post-quake psychological manifestation but I am no paranoid ... This recurrent giddiness is a real illness", Surjit complains informing he cannot even drive his car to work because of the severity of the problem.
Post-quake, physicians are flooded with patients complaining non-specified giddiness that has been stubbornly persisting since the big quake. While an anxious few are insisting that doctors carry out detailed investigation to diagnose growing hypertension or worse, an impending heart failure, doctors refrain it is all in the mind or, maybe, ears!
Says ENT (ears, nose, throat) specialist Dr Ajay Shah, "Post-quake, earth is constantly vibrating causing imbalance in the fluid in the inner part of the ear. Constant giddiness in a number of patients is resultant of this disturbance, the condition medically recognised as Vertigo".
Dr Shah warns that in a few extra-sensitive patients, imbalance afflicted by an earthquake of a higher magnitude like the one that rocked on Republic Day, can result in precipitation of small salt-like crystals. "Until these salt granules remain in the fluid, Vertigo will persist, sometimes for as long as six weeks to three months".
Vertigo is found especially in people who are motion-sensitive and are susceptible to movements like racing cars, trains or buses and of course shaking earth now. Given the way physicians are flooded with patients complaining about non-specified giddiness, sense of heaviness and tingling numbness, vibrating earth seems to have taken its toll on quite a few sensitive ones.
"There are at least 10-12 patients complaining serious giddiness everyday. The number is very high considering that not all patients might be reporting the sudden illness to doctors", concedes physician Dr Hitesh Parikh.
He attaches serious concern to the problem considering the fact that a number of patients are mistaking it as definite symptoms of heart disease and getting obsessed about monitoring blood pressure or unnecessarily undergoing specialised tests like cardiogram and stress tests!
Curiously, not all cases of giddiness are being attributed to vestibulo-cochlear imbalance of salt deposition in the inner ear. "Just 20 per cent cases are genuine cases of vertigo due to ear-fluid imbalance. Rest all are psychological", refrains Dr Parikh who points out that earthquake put people under massive psychological stress like undue anxiety or fear-psychosis.
"Constant after-shocks might result in extended ear-related vertigo but it is usually self-healing. On the other hand, one should remain cautious about stress or anxiety related giddiness that can sometimes prove fatal," says Dr Shah.