Dizziness, a blanket term used to describe any feeling of instability, is one of the leading health complaints in the United States and affects an estimated nine million people annually. For those over the age of 70, it’s the top reason for a visit to the doctor’s office.
What Are the Causes of Dizziness?
Dizziness occurs when your brain receives false signals from the balance system (comprised of the inner ear, eyes and sensory nerves). It senses movement and overcompensates, leading to a spinning sensation, weakness and faintness.
Causes of dizziness include low blood pressure, anemia, dehydration, heat-related disorders, endocrine system disorders (e.g., diabetes, thyroid disease), heart conditions, high blood pressure, viral and bacterial infections, head trauma, hyperventilation, neurological disorders and certain medications.
Several balance disorders are commonly associated with dizziness and/or vertigo.
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) involves brief but intense periods of vertigo that are triggered by specific changes in head position. It occurs when tiny crystals in the otolith organs become dislodged and migrate to the semicircular canals.
- Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that causes vertigo, tinnitus, fullness in the ear and fluctuating hearing loss that may eventually become permanent. Meniere’s is usually confined to one ear, and though its cause is unknown, it may be the result of abnormal fluid buildup in the inner ear.
- Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear usually caused by an infection. Its symptoms include vertigo, temporary hearing loss and tinnitus.
What Other Symptoms Are Associated with Dizziness?
Patients who experience dizziness report a variety of symptoms depending on the exact nature of their balance disorder. These include:
- Vertigo (the sensation of movement in your surroundings)
- Blurred vision
Superior Semi-Circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SSCD)
Superior Semi-Circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SSCD) is a rare medical condition described as a thinning or complete absence of a portion of the temporal bone overlying the superior semicircular canal of the inner ear, which causes causes a hypersensitivity to sound and balance disorders.
Symptoms include: vertigo that arises from exposure to loud sounds; dizziness that increases with activity and settles when at rest; hearing loss, tinnitus and fullness can also occur.
Treatment can occlude surgery to repair the semi-circular canal.
Vestibular Neuritis and Labrynthitis
These are the result of inflammation of the vestibular nerve and can occur with or without hearing loss. Each ear has its own vestibular nerve and when a nerve is affected by inflammation, it creates an imbalance between the inputs provided to the brain. This results in vertigo, nausea, or possibly tinnitus.
Initial symptoms often present as a sudden onset of severe vertigo and/or hearing loss accompanied by nausea and vomiting lasting hours or days. The audiologist will help determine possible etiology (cause).
Vestibular migraines don’t always cause headaches. The main symptom is dizziness that can be intermittent.
Vestibular refers to the inner ear, which controls hearing and balance. If you’re having a vestibular migraine, you may feel dizziness that lasts more than a few minutes, have nausea and vomiting, feel sick or dizzy with head movement, may feel disoriented, and often have a sensitivity to loudness.
Like traditional migraines, they’re more common in women than men. Vertigo symptoms most commonly first occur around age 40. But the condition doesn’t just affect adults. Kids can get it, too!
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a form of dizziness characterized by the feeling that you or your environment is moving or spinning, despite the lack of any actual movement. This sensation is caused by disturbances in the inner ear or the brain.
What Are the Types of Vertigo?
Peripheral vertigo is associated with problems in the inner ear. The vestibular system sends signals to the brain about the position of the head in relation to movement, enabling us to keep our balance and maintain equilibrium. When these signals are disrupted, vertigo result
Central vertigo occurs when there is a problem in the brain, usually affecting the brainstem or the cerebellum. These parts of the brain are responsible for interactions between the visual and balance systems; any disturbance can lead to vertigo. The most common cause of central vertigo is a migraine headache.
How Are Dizziness And Vertigo Treated?
Treatment for dizziness takes many forms, depending on the cause. Your doctor will try to target the underlying condition to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Options include medications (antihistamines, sedatives, antibiotics, steroids), physical or occupational therapy, surgery, repositioning exercises, vestibular retraining programs and lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes and elimination of alcohol and nicotine.