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Ann Widdecombe health: Politician's condition – ‘I thought it would stop but it didn’t’


Ann Widdecombe, 71, has found herself suffering with labyrinthitis over the years. The condition is defined as an inner ear infection and causes vertigo. Her diagnosis came shortly after an episode one night, to which she recalled, “the floor was moving”. In her Daily Express column she wrote: “I sat up and thought it would stop but it didn’t. Then I tried to get out of bed and fell over. I simply couldn’t stand and had completely lost all sense of balance.

“I assumed I was having a stroke and it was the only time I’ve ever called the doctor out in the middle of the night.”

But Ann wasn’t having a stroke, and was instead diagnosed as having viral labyrinthitis by her GP.

She said: “When I was given the final diagnosis the doctor said I’d be better in 10 days and that I should be able to drive in four weeks although the residual effects might last a bit longer

“In fact it was more than two months before I dared drive again and five months until the labyrinthitis went away completely.”

Labyrinthitis is considered a vestibular disorder. Others include Ménière’s disease, migraine addociated vertigo and Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.

Ann’s condition causes the delicate structure in the ear known as the labyrinth to become inflamed, which can affect hearing and balance.

The most common symptoms of labyrinthitis are listed by the NHS:

  • Feeling that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning (vertigo)
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Some hearing loss

Other symptoms can include:

  • Mild headaches
  • Ringing or humming in your ear(s) (tinnitus)
  • Fluid or pus leaking out of your ear(s)
  • Ear pain
  • Changes in vision, such as blurred vision or double vision

The health body adds: “The symptoms of labyrinthitis can be quite severe during the first week, but usually get better after a few weeks.

“In some cases the symptoms can last longer and have a significant impact on your quality of life and ability to carry out everyday tasks.”

The best advice given to Ann to treat the condition as to keep active and moving.

She continued: “I had to completely retrain may brain to regain my balance.

“It felt odd and unstable walking up stairs so I’d make myself do it over and over again. This attitude definitely aided my recovery.”

The condition has had a big impact on Ann’s day-to-day life, causing her to cancel many engagements and making public speaking difficult.

But she added the condition isn’t as rare as you’d think, saying: “A lot of people I know have experienced this at some point. One friend even had residual symptoms for two years.”

In the past Ann has backed national campaign Balance Awareness Week, which is run by the Ménière’s Society and aims to help sufferers manage their condition.

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