Just moments before you were planted on solid ground, but now you seem to be standing upright on a tilt-a-whirl. Feelings of lightheadedness and vertigo can be unsettling – they can make your day less efficient, less pleasant, or sometimes cause it to come to a screeching halt. Problems with balance are not uncommon. Around 40 percent of Americans will see a doctor because of dizziness at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Dizziness is an important issue for older adults. Falls and falling are a leading cause of injury in people over 65. Older adults are more likely to take medications and have conditions that lead to dizziness. And as you age, the systems that create balance are affected. But young or old, nobody is immune.
A solid sense of balance is an important part of good health. It requires the coordination of three bodily functions; vision, the ability to sense your body’s position, and receptors in the inner ear. For many, dizziness simply goes away after a time. But dizziness can sometimes be a sign of other problems. Dizziness has many potential causes and can be linked to more than one factor. As a result, diagnosing the cause can take time.
Potential Causes of Vertigo and Light-headedness
- Blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure can cause light-headedness.
- Overheating. Being active in hot weather can cause dehydration and lead to feelings of dizziness.
- Low blood sugar. This can prompt unsteadiness, sweating, and anxiety, especially in those with diabetes.
- Medications. Side effects of many medications include feelings of light-headedness: antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and drugs for high blood pressure and seizures.
- Anxiety. Feeling faint is a common symptom of panic attacks and anxiety-related disorders, such as agoraphobia.
- Neurological disorders. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may cause lightheadedness.
- BPPV. If you feel like you are spinning when they lie down or turn your head, you may have BPPV. This is an inner ear disturbance caused by loose particles. Most cases of BPPV improve on their own within 6 weeks, although treatment can speed up the process.
- Meniere’s disease: This disease is associated with hearing loss and ringing in the ears. Meniere’s disease is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Your ears may feel blocked or plugged.
- Labyrinthitis: This condition is caused by a virus and can result in vertigo and sudden hearing loss.
- Migraine: Some migraines can be accompanied by vertigo, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.
- Pregnancy: Dizziness is fairly common during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. Hormonal changes alter the stretchiness of blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the uterus but may lower blood pressure. Low blood sugar, due to demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy, can also cause dizziness. The weight of the baby pressing on blood vessels can have a similar effect.
Symptoms that go along with your dizziness can be clues to the underlying cause, so pay attention to the following before your appointment:
- Vision problems
- Buzzing or ringing in the ears
- Ear pain
- Speech problems
If you have serious symptoms such as vomiting, garbled speech, fainting, chest pain, high fever or head trauma along with feeling dizzy, seek medical care immediately, as these may be signs of a serious condition.
Most often, dizziness goes away on its own. But if you have questions, or want help finding the cause of your dizziness, give us a call today to make an appointment with our knowledgeable doctors.