Don’t Let Dizziness Throw Off Your Life’s Balance

Dizziness or loss of balance, sometimes referred to as vertigo, is the second most common complaint that doctors hear. According to the National Institutes of Health, dizziness will occur in 70 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Whether the dizziness is fleeting or chronic may indicate how serious the potential health risks are to you as an individual.

Equilibrium disorders typically fall into two categories:

  • Acute attacks of dizziness, vertigo, or a general loss of balance that may last a few seconds or a few hours
  • A persistent sense of imbalance, unsteadiness, or what some people refer to as a loss of sure-footedness

Although you may feel helpless when you’re hit with a dizzy spell, there’s plenty of hope for these balance problems. Proper diagnosis and treatment options have been enhanced over the last decade, making dizziness a much easier problem to resolve.

Why Am I Losing My Balance?

To help balance your body, your brain requires input from your inner ear, your eyes, and your body to determine where it is in relation to other objects. Your brain takes this information to determine what movements your body should make based on what’s going on around you. If any one of the several parts of this complicated system does not work properly, a loss of sure-footedness or problems with movement coordination can take place.

The natural aging process may affect these senses, as well as the central nervous system’s ability to interpret and react to them quickly. Physicians commonly hear complaints that patients can see a curb or step but aren’t able to react quickly enough to keep their balance. With proper diagnosis and therapeutic exercises, like balance retraining, many older adults can return to a more active lifestyle.

Facts About Dizziness and Balance

  • Loss of balance will affect 90 million Americans at some point during their lives.
  • More than 9 million people each year consult their physicians to find solutions to their dizziness, which is the number one complaint for individuals over age 70.
  • Balance-related falls account for more than half of all accidental deaths in the elderly population, and they cause more than 300,000 hip fractures each year in individuals over age 65.
  • Some inner-ear disorders, like Ménière’s disease or benign positional vertigo, have symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable to most people. Because of how they affect an individual’s ability to stand, walk, see clearly, think clearly, read, watch television, and make decisions, these disorders are often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and clinical depression.
  • Children with treatable balance disorders are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as learning disabled, dyslexic, or psychologically disturbed.
  • Head trauma and whiplash are frequent causes of dizziness.
  • Ear infections can also cause vestibular disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of the dizziness?
Typically, symptoms resolve on their own, but treatment can be provided either in home or at a practice that treats balance issues.
How long does vertigo last?
A vertigo attack may last only a few seconds, or a few hours. This may last only a matter of weeks, or it may be an ongoing problem. People with persistent, ongoing vertigo may be in danger of harming themselves or others, making treatment a necessity.
What are some home exercises for vertigo?
The Brandt-Daroff exercises and the Epley maneuver are two home methods for treating benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the most common disorder of the inner ear’s vestibular system. These two maneuvers succeed in 95 percent of cases, but might be more arduous than office treatments.

Brandt-Daroff Exercises: Three sessions per day for two weeks. Each maneuver should be performed five times per session. (1) Begin by sitting upright on your bed. (2) Lay down on your right side with your knees bent and your legs pulled up halfway to your chest. Look upward at a 45 degree angle (as if someone is standing about six feet in front of you while you look at their head); stay in this side laying position for 30 seconds or until dizziness subsides. (3) Move back to a sitting position for 30 seconds. (4) Perform step 2 on the opposite side.

Epley Maneuver: Repeat every night for two weeks. (1) Sit upright on your bed with your legs stretched out in front you of, twisting your head to the left for about one minute. (2) Lay on your back and keep your head facing left and slightly upward, similar to the head position of the previous exercise. Perform for 30 seconds. (3) Turn the head in the same position to the right, and hold for 30 seconds. (4) Roll to your right side and hold for 30 seconds. (5) Return to the upright position for one minute, and repeat the cycle three times. Mirror your movements to treat the right ear.

Why do I get dizzy when I stand up?
Blood pressure drops excessively when you sit or stand, causing dizziness. This dizziness can resolve rapidly within a few seconds if the person lies down. Some people do faint, however, and symptoms tend to be more common and worse after exercise, consuming alcohol, or eating a heavy meal. Low blood flow to the brain can cause dizziness and other symptoms, and is not necessarily a result of vertigo. Because reasons for dizziness vary depending upon specific medical conditions, individuals who experience excessive dizziness when shifting body positions are encouraged to contact a practice that offers balance treatment for a full consultation.

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