Altea Physiotherapy + Wellness Blog

Visually Induced Dizziness “Supermarket Syndrome”

Shopping cart, Visually Induced Dizziness, Altea Physiotherapy Prince George BC

Written by Carly

Carly Chuby is the vestibular therapist at Altea Physiotherapy and Wellness. She has been a certified vestibular therapist since 2017.

March 3, 2022

Visually Induced Dizziness “Supermarket Syndrome”

Do you avoid going to the grocery store? Do the bright lights, busy patterns on the floor, vast number of things to look at, bending down or turning your head to look at items make you feel exhausted or just plain horrible? I can tell you that you are not going crazy and definitely are not the only person experiencing this. A vestibular disorder may be causing these symptoms and it can be treated!

There are 3 major systems that make us feel balanced. They are; what you see with your eyes, what you feel underneath your feet (proprioceptors), and your vestibular system (inner ear). When one of these systems is not working how it should be, your brain gets conflicting messages and has to rely more heavily on a particular system, which can cause symptoms like this one. With “supermarket syndrome” your brain relies too heavily on your visual system.

A great example of getting conflicting messages from your balance centres is watching an action movie with a lot happening on screen. The visual system says there is movement, but the vestibular and proprioceptive system says there is not because you are sitting still on your couch. Normally, your brain can easily sift through this information and you know you are not actually moving, but with a mismatch in information (due to a vestibular disorder) this could result in feeling motion sickness.

Symptoms of visually induced dizziness:

  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Salivation (mouth watering)
  • Fatigue

If you are in a situation that causes your symptoms to get worse you can try the following:

  • Take deep breaths in and out (5 seconds in and out)
  • Wear supportive footwear to make sure you will not fall
  • Drink water to help with nausea
  • Hold onto something (shopping cart) for support

It is important you do not avoid the activities you normally do or the things that make you feel dizzy. Getting used to these things is an important step in recovery and retraining your brain. You also do not want to push too hard because this can make your symptoms worse. Vestibular rehabilitation can help guide you through this recovery.

Treatment of visually induced dizziness requires a vestibular examination to determine the underlying condition. Once this is done, home exercises to retrain your balance centres is helpful. Specific types of vestibular rehabilitation exercises are prescribed to help your brain relearn how to sift through the information it is receiving from your eyes, feet, and vestibular system (inner ear).

Exercises may include:

  • Habituation, a type of exercises that exposes you to the symptom inducing activity in a slow, gradual, and controlled manner.
  • Balance exercises.

Vestibular rehabilitation takes time and effort from both an experienced clinician and the patient. Contact our clinic today to book an appointment with Carly.

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