Many of us have found ourselves asking the question, whether on ordinary days or during times of illness, “Why do I feel dizzy?”
While dizziness can be unpleasant, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that occasional vertigo is very common in adults. But you might not have guessed that vertigo is also common, affecting almost 40% of people over 40 at least once in their lifetime.
So how do you know if you have vertigo or ordinary dizziness? The main difference is that vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting whereas dizziness simply makes you feel momentarily off balance. That said, vertigo can be of varying severity, ranging from merely annoying to seriously concerning.
Here’s what usually causes dizziness and lightheadedness. And what to do if you have one of these episodes.
1. Dizziness can be caused by an inner ear problem
One of the most surprising causes of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Your inner ear contains calcium and protein-based sensing crystals called otoconia. If these crystals are dislodged and floating around in the canals of your inner ear, you may experience a brief spinning sensation. It’s a simple mechanical problem that can and should be corrected with physical therapy, not drugs or surgery.
Although this type of vertigo is the most common balance disorder related to the inner ear, it only affects one in a thousand people per year. And although it can affect adults of any age, this type of vertigo mainly affects older people. Most cases occur for no apparent reason. It has been linked to trauma, migraines, inner ear infections, diabetes and osteoporosis. After treatment, 50% of patients may have this problem again within five years, especially if it is due to trauma.
2. Your ear’s balance system controls blood flow
Our inner ear balance system helps control our blood flow. The inner ear has the ability to know in which direction the top is. When you go from lying down to standing up, two structures in the inner ear, the utricle and the saccule, sense gravity. They tell your cardiovascular system to direct blood flow to accommodate your change in position. When this process goes wrong, it can cause dizziness.
3. Low vitamin B12 can cause dizziness
Deficiencies in this essential vitamin can lead to a number of neurological problems. Including a feeling of imbalance, low blood pressure and decreased blood flow to the brain. Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to detect and treat, but it’s an often overlooked cause of dizziness.
Ask your doctor for a simple blood test to check your B12 levels if you feel dizzy. Good sources of vitamin B12 are meat, dairy products and products fortified with this vitamin.
4. Dizziness can be a symptom of heart disease
A simple cause of vertigo is sudden movement. Like when you get up too suddenly from your seat or bed. But sometimes dizziness is a sign of a heart problem. Cardiovascular causes of vertigo include leaky or narrow heart valves, arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, and atherosclerosis. These diseases can cause dizziness because they reduce blood flow to the brain.
5. Migraines sometimes cause dizziness
It surprises some people to know that dizziness is often linked to migraine, with or without a headache. Other symptoms of migraine-related vertigo include sensitivity to movement, light, and sound. About 40% of people who suffer from migraines experience vertigo or lightheadedness.
6. Dizziness may be linked to anxiety
Many people who suffer from vertigo, especially people in their twenties, may also be anxious. They usually don’t want to hear that dizziness may be related to anxiety because it suggests it’s all in their head. But what’s in your head is your brain. And anxiety may reflect a disturbance in brain function that may be genetic in origin.
Compared to people without anxiety, people with anxiety disorders seem to sway more when subjected to a moving visual environment. And they sway in a way that seems to be synchronized with visual movement. These people may be abnormally sensitive to visual stimulation, as their vertigo may increase when looking at moving objects or when walking in a large bright store.
This is called visual addiction. Little is known about its frequency. It is likely that in the future these disorders will be reclassified, in part, based on genetics.
7. A boat ride or waterbed can cause dizziness
It is quite common to experience a feeling of dizziness the first day after a cruise. For some people, this feeling, called seasickness, can last for months or even years. About 75% of sailors can experience such dizziness. Airplanes, cars and trains can also cause dizziness. Even relaxing on a waterbed can cause dizziness.
8. Dizziness and Dizziness Can Be Medication Side Effects
So many drugs can cause dizziness that there are too many to list them all. That said, high doses of blood pressure medications can cause dizziness. Especially in older people and in those who have started taking too high a dose for them.
Check whether the medicines you are taking can cause dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of balance, by contacting your pharmacist or doctor. Careful review of drug lists and lowering doses can sometimes bring surprising benefits.
9. Your diet or dehydration could be making you dizzy
Even mild dehydration can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Dehydration can also lead to low blood pressure. Which can cause dizziness. Diets can also cause dizziness, as some of them lead to dehydration. Mild dehydration following the loss of just 1-2% of your body weight can cause dizziness.
10. There are several less common causes of dizziness and vertigo
Watch out for any stuns. Because they can, along with other symptoms, indicate something more serious. Like warning symptoms of stroke or a brain tumor.
A very rare disease linked to vertigo is Ménière’s disease. If you have prolonged bouts of whirling vertigo as well as hearing problems in one ear, it could be Ménière’s disease. This disease affects only about 0.2% of the population. It is sometimes found in adults between the ages of 40 and 60. Although it cannot be cured, it can be treated.