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Why Are You Dizzy?

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Vertigo and dizziness causes and what to do about being dizzy

By Katherine Solem 

 

Feeling dizzy involves a sense of unsteadiness or vertigo. Although causes of dizziness are most often not severe and usually resolve themselves, in some cases dizziness or vertigo can signal a larger problem. Read more about dizziness causes and how to treat dizziness.

Causes of Dizziness

Dizziness is a general term that can describe a feeling associated with a number of other symptoms including vertigo, light headedness or just a sense of loss of balance. Each of these can be caused by different things.

  • Vertigo:Vertigo is feeling a sense of spinning or motion when there is none.
       
    • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): This is characterized by having a severe, but short, episode of vertigo whenever you shift the position of your head. This is the most common cause of vertigo and can occur when you roll over in your bed or just sit up.
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    • Inner ear inflammation: An inflamed inner ear can cause a sudden onset of vertigo that can last for several days. This usually also involves feeling nauseous, vomiting and feeling imbalanced. While the symptoms can be severe, it usually resolves itself.
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    • Meniere’s disease: This is characterized by inner ear fluid build up. The vertigo associated with this disease occurs suddenly and usually lasts from half an hour to several hours.
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    • Labyrinthitis: This occurs most often immediately following a cold or flu and is due to an infection in your inner ear.
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    • Migrainous vertigo: Some migraines can also cause a feeling of vertigo.
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    • Acoustic neuroma: This is caused by a benign growth on your vestibular nerve which is responsible for connecting your inner ear to your brain. This vertigo is often also accompanied by a gradual loss of hearing and tinnitus.
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    • Neurological problems: While rare, vertigo can also be caused by more serious issues including a stroke, brain hemorrhage or multiple sclerosis. If this is the case, vertigo is often accompanied with vision problems, slurred speech and difficulty walking.
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  • Light headedness: The medical term for this feeling is “presyncope.” This feeling of being lightheaded can involve feeling dizzyand nauseous, having pale or clammy skin.
       
    • Blood pressure drop: A sudden drop in your blood pressure can cause this type of dizziness. Particularly as you get older, this can occur from simply getting up too quickly. In more severe cases, a blood pressure drop can be due to severe shock.
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    • Heart problems: Some heart problems that cause your heart to pump too little blood can also cause a feeling of being light headed. This can occur due to a heart attack or stroke. If this is the cause of dizziness, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms including chest pain, increased heart rate, vision changes or speech difficulty.
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  • Loss of balance:
       
    • Vestibular problems: Your inner ear vestibular system is responsible for helping you maintain a sense of balance. As a result, disturbances to your inner ear function can impact your sense of balance. Having difficulty walking in the dark is particularly common with vestibular problems.
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    • Sensory disorders: Loss of vision or nerve damage in your legs can cause balance problems. This is particularly common in older individuals.
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    • Joint and muscle problems: Having muscle problems, including osteoarthritis, can also cause you to lose your balance more easily.
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    • Neurological conditions: Some neurological problems can also cause you to loose your balance. These can include Parkinson’s disease, cerebellar ataxia, spinal cord disorders and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
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    • Medications: Some drugs including anti-seizure medications, tranquilizers and sedatives, can also cause a feeling of imbalance.
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  • Anxiety disorders: Some anxiety disorders can also cause you to feel dizzy or unsteady on your feet.
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Symptoms Associated with Dizziness

  • Vertigo
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  • Feeling lightheaded
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  • Loss of balance
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  • Nausea
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  • Vomiting
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