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
How Is Dizziness 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.