‘Rocking vertigo’ could be from an inner-ear disorder

Q. I’m 83. For three years, I’ve felt like I’ve been rocking on 40-foot ocean waves. I’ve had many tests, and the doctors say it’s because I am old. Is there anything I can do?

— Pauline, Tampa, Fla.

A. Only Bill Haley and the Comets thought it was a great thing to rock around the clock. There are a couple of possible causes for the sensation you’re describing. Some people experience it after a boat trip or a long flight. It’s called mal de debarquement syndrome (French for “sickness of disembarkment”), and it can last for years.

Alternatively, your “rocking vertigo” could be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, an inner-ear disorder that occurs when small calcium particles in your ear canals break loose or clump together. The particles tell your brain about moves you’re making, but when those particles are messed up, your brain gets wildly exaggerated info.

While BPPV is associated with aging, you don’t have to live with it. Your docs should be able to show you some easy head movements that tilt the particles out of your inner ear. If that doesn’t do the trick, or they seem baffled, see a physical therapist specializing in balance disorders.


Q. I regularly have heart palpitations the week before menstruating, especially when I’m anxious or going to sleep. My heart tests are normal. Where are the palpitations coming from? Can you put my mind at ease?

— Renee, Athens, Ga.

A. This should quiet your mind, if not your heart: Palpitations are rarely serious. Having them before your period is fairly common.

Since your heart’s gotten a clean bill of health, it’s time to check other body parts.

Let’s start with your brain: When you’re anxious, your brain churns out chemicals that ramp up your adrenaline, which makes your heart speed up and go flippity-flop. You could have an anxiety disorder and be having mild flippity-flops all day, but you’re too busy to notice them until you lie down to sleep.

Your thyroid could be to blame, too. Too little or too much thyroid hormone can make your heart do a tap dance worthy of the Rockettes.

If your doc says you’re in good health, try meditating away the palpitations or just ignoring them.


Q. After my husband developed deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism, we learned that he has protein C deficiency. His brothers also have had blood clots. Are our children and grandchildren at risk of developing them?

— Valerie, Prescott, Ariz.

A. About one in 300 people have a mild deficiency of protein C, a blood chemical that helps prevent clotting. People who don’t have enough protein C are more vulnerable to deep vein thrombosis, a clot in a deep vein that can be life-threatening if it causes a stroke or goes to the lungs, as happened with your husband.

A genetic mutation causes this deficiency, and it’s usually inherited. That likely explains the clots in your brothers-in-law. Your kids and grandkids can be tested for the mutation (it’s in the PROC gene). They also should be tested for clotting speed and protein C levels.


The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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