A study by researchers at the University of Sydney indicates glasses specially designed to measure eye movements during vertigo could help physicians diagnose the type of vertigo a person suffers.
The study, conducted in partnership with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and published in the journal Neurology, included 117 patients already diagnosed with three types of vertigo, who then used the goggles to video record their own episode of vertigo.
The goggles were able to provide very high accuracy of diagnosis similar to in-clinic hearing tests. Patients studied included those with Ménière disease, vestibular migraine or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Vertigo is a form of severe dizziness that can result in a loss of balance, a feeling of falling, trouble walking or standing, or nausea, and because there is more than one type of vertigo, each with a different cause, different treatment may be required in each specific case.
The study results indicated that it is possible for patients to record their own episodes of vertigo – and for health professionals to apply these principles when viewing the video footage to accurately diagnose the cause of the vertigo.
"Observing a person's eye movements during an episode can help make the diagnosis, but people don't always have an episode when they are at the doctor's office," said associate professor Miriam Welgampola of the University's Faculty of Medicine and Health in a statement.
She noted Vertigo can be a disabling condition, so an accurate diagnosis is important to effectively treat the underlying disorder, and can be a symptom of a number of different conditions – including stroke in rare instances – underscoring the importance of identifying the cause as soon as possible.
The technology, developed by the University's Vestibular Research Laboratory in the Faculty of Science, could also theoretically be used in combination with telehealth services through physicians diagnosing patients remotely.
More work needs to be done in the meantime, however, with the research team noting some limitations, including the fact that four study participants said they did not feel well enough to wear the goggles when experiencing vertigo.
The research team also noted some medications taken for vertigo may have influenced eye movement, and some patients did not wear the goggles when they thought their vertigo was too mild.
"While further studies are needed in larger groups, providing people with a pair of goggles that they can easily use at home to record eye movement has the potential to help with vertigo diagnosis not only by a neurologist in a clinic, but also by physicians in an emergency room," said Welgampola.