Dizziness

 

Edward S. Cohn, M.D.
Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute  

Dizziness is a common health complaint among adults and seniors and is the number one reason people over the age of 60 visit their doctor. Often dizziness comes on suddenly and can be described as a whirling sensation, light headedness, a feeling of disorientation or a loss of balance. A loss of balance could lead to a potentially serious fall.

Why am I Dizzy?

Often people will complain about a general dizziness feeling, but in actuality the characteristics of the dizziness feeling have distinct classifications, including:

  • Lightheadedness resulting from a decrease in blood supply to the brain. It occurs when someone stands up quickly, causing a fainting feeling and can subside when you lay down.
  • Disequilibrium resulting from state of imbalance or instability. It creates unsteadiness and disorientation causing a person to lose balance and fall.
  • Vertigo often resulting from a problem with the nerve and balance mechanism in the inner ear which senses movement. Vertigo leaves a person feeling as if they or the room is still spinning, although it is not, and worsens with movement.

The most common cause of dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is related to the change of position, when rolling over in bed or sitting up or lying down. BPPV is usually associated with brief, but severe vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom and has different causes.

In adults and seniors, a host of medical problems such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, alcoholism and depression can bring upon bouts of dizziness. In addition, several other factors could increase the frequency of dizziness spells, including:

  • Anemia
  • Stroke
  • Hunger
  • Anxiety
  • Medication
  • Inner ear disease
  • Rapid Change in blood pressure

Addressing the Problem

Dizziness can be troublesome and often debilitating, causing apprehension about engaging in activities. To manage the dizziness feeling, a physician may suggest several techniques such as:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing balancing techniques
  • Reviewing your medication to look for drug interactions
  • Taking medication before bedtime
  • Avoiding smoking and caffeinated drinks
  • Eating smaller meals, more frequently
  • Monitoring or reducing blood pressure
  • Discussing new medication with your physician
  • Treating migraines which can be associated with dizziness

When to See a Physician

If you have repeat or frequent dizziness, schedule an appointment with your physician. If your dizziness is associated with numbness, tingling, arm, leg or facial weakness, slurred speech, visual change or difficulty swallowing, Or if you experience dizziness from a head trauma or injury, seek immediate attention.