Dizziness is a general term used to describe feeling lightheaded, unsteady or “woozy.” Vertigo–the distorted sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or whirling–is considered a specific form of dizziness. Dizziness may become worse when rising from a resting position or making sudden movements.
Being dizzy is not a disease in and of itself, and occasional dizziness is typically not cause for alarm. However, frequent or chronic dizziness usually indicates an underlying condition. While there are many possible causes of chronic dizziness, it is frequently the result of an inner ear issue (also referred to as a vestibular disorder).
Many people don’t realize the vital role that your inner ear plays in helping control balance. For this reason, if you find yourself wondering, “Why am I dizzy?” it is important to consult with an ear, nose and throat medical professional. At Sierra Nevada ENT, our balance therapy experts specialize in diagnosing and treating dizziness and vestibular disorders.
There are a number of causes of dizziness, including those that have nothing to do with the inner ear. Some of these may include:
- Imbalances of fluids or nutrients in the body, especially dehydration, low blood sugar or low levels of iron
- Environmental triggers, such as excessive heat, motion when traveling, carbon monoxide or chemical fumes
- Reactions to an ingested substance, including some prescription medicines, other drugs or alcohol
- Circulation issues, including those caused by irregular heartbeat, blood clots, clogged arteries or cardiac arrest
- Neurological or nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Viral infections, such as Covid-19 or influenza
- Other illnesses, including migraines or anxiety disorders
Dizziness may be accompanied by other symptoms. Seek immediate medical care if you or someone you love is experiencing any of the following serious symptoms in conjunction with being dizzy:
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to move or numbness in the face or limbs
- Chest pain or heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Slurred or unintelligible speech
- Blurred or double vision
- Diminished hearing or ringing in the ears
- High fever
- Head injury or sudden headache
- Continuous vomiting
Because dizziness has many potential root causes–including those listed above and the vestibular disorders covered in the next section–a medical diagnosis is vital to create an appropriate and effective dizziness treatment plan.
“Vestibular” refers to the intricate network between the inner ear and brain that processes sensory cues and controls balance. As you move, so does the fluid in your ear, sending messages to your brain about spatial positioning. When this process is disrupted, balance problems–vestibular disorders–can occur. In addition to dizziness and vertigo, a vestibular disorder may result in gaze instability, imbalance and/or unexplained falls.
Vestibular disorders include, but are not limited to:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis
- Ménière’s disease
- Secondary endolymphatic hydrops
- Mal de Débarquement (MDD)
- Vestibular migraine
- Cervical vertigo (cervicogenic dizziness)
- Stroke, traumatic brain injury or persistent concussion symptoms (PCS)
- Age-related dizziness and/or imbalance
Anybody can suffer from dizziness. In fact, nearly half of the American population will seek medical care for an episode of dizziness at some point in their life. The likelihood of frequent or chronic dizziness increases as people age, with approximately one-quarter of adults over the age of 72 reporting multiple episodes or periods of dizziness. According to the journal Aging and Disease, this can be attributed to the development of vestibular, visual, neurological, cardiovascular or psychological issues in conjunction with aging. It may also be the result of prescription medications given to control these or other conditions.
There is no single cause of dizziness. It may be genetic or the result of infection or disease, injury, age or medication. That is why it is so important to consult with a medical professional, such as the experts at Sierra Nevada ENT, to determine the underlying cause and create an effective vestibular rehabilitation plan.
When a patient comes to Sierra Nevada ENT complaining of dizziness, our doctors first take a detailed medical history and chart the onset, severity, frequency and duration of symptoms. We then perform a physical exam to provide an appropriate diagnosis and develop a patient-specific treatment plan based upon examination findings, patient goals and lifestyle and medical history. Sometimes, there is a relatively easy fix, like switching a medicine that is causing dizziness. Other times, dizziness caused by vestibular disorders or other underlying conditions may require more advanced treatment.
Visit Sierra Nevada ENT today for a proper diagnosis and dizziness treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
A dizziness treatment plan often involves some form of balance therapy. Balance therapy may also be referred to as “vestibular rehabilitation therapy.”
Balance therapy is designed around the specific needs of each patient and can be adapted for all individuals, including older populations and those with limited mobility.
Exercises aim to decrease the severity of a response through consistent exposure to problematic stimuli and movements that build upon one another gradually in a safe and professional setting.
With locations in Reno, Carson City, Gardnerville and Fallon, Sierra Nevada ENT has been proudly serving the Northern Nevada area for over 25 years. Our state-of-the-art balance therapy center serves patients who experience dizziness as a result of inner ear problems and vestibular disorders. Our experts tailor each vestibular therapy program to the individual, helping them reduce dizziness and return to normal daily function.