Dizziness is often caused by illnesses that affect the inner ear, including benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), migraine and inflammation of the inner ear balance apparatus (called vestibular neuritis). Dizziness may also be caused by low blood pressure, some heart problems (such as cardiac arrhythmias), anxiety disorders such as panic attacks or (uncommonly) by hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
Symptoms of dizziness and vertigo:
- A sensation of movement (including spinning), either of yourself or the external environment
- Unsteadiness, including finding it difficult to walk in a straight line
- Feeling ‘faint’
- Further symptoms that may accompany dizziness include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing or other sounds in the ears (tinnitus)
- Difficulty hearing
- Staggering gait and loss of coordination (ataxia)
- Unusual eye movements, such as flitting of the eyes (nystagmus)
- Finding it difficult to see clearly when moving, for example, reading a sign while walking or driving
Inside the inner ear is a series of canals filled with fluid. These canals are oriented at different angles, and as the head moves, the movement of the fluid inside these canals tells the brain how far, how fast and in what direction the head is moving. This information is then used by the brain to move the eyes an equal and opposite amount, so that the image that is ‘seen’ by the eyes does not blur and remains clear.
What causes dizziness and vertigo?
Disorders of the inner ear account for about half of all cases of persistent (ongoing) dizziness. Disorders include Meniere’s disease, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and vestibular neuritis.
Your doctor will run some tests if you are suffering from vertigo (medical history, physical examination, blood pressure check, MRI scan in extreme cases), but may send you to a physiotherapist if BPPV is suspected.
If you suffer from BPPV your Move Well Physiotherapist can treat and manage this condition. Treatment will involve Canalith positioning procedures, which are a special set of exercises designed to remove inner ear ‘crystals’ in BPPV. You will also be given advice on self management to prevent recurrence of the condition.