Feeling Dizzy? Why and What to Do About It.
Dizziness is more common than you think. The common statistic quoted is that more than 40% of adults have reported dizziness to their doctors. People may also say they have a balance problem, lightheadedness, or have a feeling that they’re unsteady.
Although used as a synonym, vertigo is a more specific type of dizziness that refers to a feeling that your head is spinning or the sensation that the space you’re in is moving around you.
Dizziness and vertigo are concerns because they can cause falls. Falls, in turn, can lead to people breaking bones and even more serious injuries, including death. Let’s look at some dizziness causes and treatments.
Dizziness and vertigo can have a number of different causes. These are some of the most common.
- Inner ear disorders, also called vestibular disorders. This can cause an extreme case of vertigo and can last for days at a time. This type disorder can get worse with age.
- Meniere's disease. This is typically caused by the buildup of pressure from the fluid in your inner ear. This typically occurs in only one ear, but can happen in both ears.
Blood pressure problems
- High blood pressure, also called hypertension. Dizziness could be a symptom of this disease or medication associated with high blood pressure can be the culprit.
- Low blood pressure can result in the brain not getting enough blood, which can cause a feeling of lightheadedness. Pregnancy can cause low blood pressure, which is one reason a pregnant woman may feel faint.
- Dizziness is often on the list of side effects for many medications. If someone is taking more than one prescription drug, the potential for dizziness can increase.
- Double vision occurs when your two eyes don’t work together. This can cause disorientation which can lead to you feeling dizzy.
- Ambient visual disorder is usually caused by a traumatic injury to the brain. Basically, it impacts the visual processes that let you orient yourself in space which you need to do to maintain your balance. If your balance system is off, you may feel dizzy as you move.
There are some immediate actions you can take if you start feeling dizzy.
- Don’t operate any machinery, drive a car, or climb a ladder.
- If you are feeling lightheaded, slowly lie down for a few minutes to get more blood flowing to your brain. Then slowly sit up. Sit still for a few more minutes before trying to stand up again.
- If you are getting vertigo symptoms, do not lie flat on your back. Instead, sit and brace yourself until the spinning sensation stops.
- In either case, try to drink more fluids as dehydration can also lead to lightheadedness.
Longer Term Actions
If you are having dizziness or vertigo symptoms that are reoccurring, you should be talking to your doctor. And any doctor who treats geriatric patients should be asking about whether or not the patient is feeling dizzy. When you see your doctor, be sure he or she knows all the medications you are taking.
Even if not requested by your doctor, make sure your eye glass prescription is up to date. An incorrect prescription can make you feel unsteady.
Patients with dizziness are often referred to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor. That's because the ear is the primary organ that controls balance.
Next, diagnostic tests are usually ordered. If balance testing is needed it is done at the ENT office. These tests evaluate the brain, the eyes, and the inner ear. A hearing test might also be ordered.
If dizziness or imbalance is a problem these are some possible medical treatments that may be used.
- Balance or physical therapy may be suggested. This therapy tries to compensate for inner ear problems by promoting the central nervous system. Its purpose is to retrain the brain's connection to the eye, head, ear, and body. It involves the patient and therapist performing a series of head and body movements.
- Antibiotics might be used if the doctor finds a bacterial infection in the ear.
- For Meniere’s disease, a low-salt diet and medication may be used.
With the right treatment, it is possible to reduce your dizziness and improve your balance and quality of life.