Do you know the common medical complaint that regularly puzzles doctors? Roughly 40% of people will seek help for this symptom at least once in their lives. It is usually the sign of a treatable condition, though occasionally it signifies a serious health problem. I’m talking about dizziness, an unpleasant symptom with one of many possible causes.
As you will see, there are numerous reasons why you or someone you know may be suffering from dizziness. Treating the problem means treating the underlying condition that causes it. Familiarizing yourself with some typical causes of dizziness will help you know what to expect when you consult your physician about this health concern.
The Most Common Form of Dizziness
The most common form of debilitating dizziness is vertigo, or the false sensation that you and your surroundings are in motion. Vertigo usually originates in the inner ear, which is responsible for balance and receiving sensory signals and sending them to the brain.
When it comes to vertigo, 25 to 40% of cases are due to B.P.P.V., or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Certain motions, such as tilting the head back to look up (think of sitting in a dentist’s chair), can cause otherwise harmless calcium deposits to become lodged in the inner ear, triggering B.P.P.V.
The treatment for this common type of vertigo is surprisingly simple. It requires a series of head movements called the Epley maneuvers, which must be performed by a physician. In effect, the movements shake the calcium deposits back to a place where they won’t cause trouble.
In other cases, vertigo is triggered by inflammation of the inner ear, for which the cause is not known. Most likely, it is the result of a viral infection, which clears up on its own in a few days. Sometimes people who suffer from vestibular migraines experience vertigo and dizziness. The migraine makes them sensitive to motion, and vertigo can occur even if a full-blown migraine does not manifest itself.
Other causes of vertigo are Meniere’s disease, which is treated by reducing the body’s fluid retention with diuretics or a low-salt diet, and rare but serious neurological problems, such as stroke or brain hemorrhage.
Other Reasons Your Head is Spinning
Though it is not technically vertigo, faintness often involves similar unpleasant feelings and sensitivity to movement. It can be caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure or insufficient blood flow to the heart because of heart disease, partially blocked arteries or arrhythmia.
Often, lightheadedness and dizziness occur when you stand up too quickly. This phenomenon, known as syncope, is related to inadequate blood flow to the brain. When you stand up after eating a heavy meal, you might feel lightheaded because more blood is flowing to the digestive system than to your head.
Low blood sugar can also cause you to feel lightheaded, so it is important to eat regular balanced meals, stay hydrated and not wait until you are starving to have your meal.
Dizziness is also a symptom of most anxiety disorders. You may feel this unpleasant sensation during a panic attack or when you are under great stress. Unfortunately many helpful medications cause dizziness as a side effect. First, make sure you are taking the correct dose and if so, ask your doctor about making an adjustment to your dosage or opting for a different treatment.
In cases like these, or anytime you have an attack of dizziness, herbs can help. Gingko biloba is known to reduce symptoms. Many of my patients have also found relief with vitamin B6 supplements and ginger.
If you have a history of dizziness or vertigo, you know it can make everyday activities difficult or even impossible. Working with your doctor to uncover the cause of your symptoms will direct you to an effective treatment plan. Even though doctors must first do tests to rule out a number of possible causes for dizziness, their ultimate goal is to find the root of the problem and get you on the path to renewed health.