Dizziness — You may want to sit down for this

Dizziness is defined as a loss of balance that may affect vision, one’s ability to sense body position or issues with the receptors in the inner ear. It has been established that around 40% people will seek medical attention because of dizziness at some stage in their life.

There are 3 basic categories of dizziness:

1. Vertigo — this is basically the sensation of your surroundings moving in a rhythmic fashion.

2. Pre-syncope or lightheadedness— this is a feeling where you are going to faint or possibly blackout.

3. Disequilibrium — this is a wonky, woozy or off-balance sensation.

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Vertigo is essentially an inner ear problem. The commonest cause of vertigo is benign positional vertigo which is typically a post viral phenomenon. Other causes include Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuroma, multiple sclerosis, stroke or brain tumour. Some medications may also cause vertigo.

Pre-syncope is due to reduction in the blood flow through the artery is going to the brain and especially the arteries that travel through the back of the neck to the back of the brain. This may be due to spasm in the so-called vertebral system along with some cervical spine disease, typically osteoarthritis. Many varying cardiac issues may also cause this phenomenon including heart rhythm disorders, cardiac failure, valve abnormalities and the very common vasovagal syncope. Severe dehydration and blood loss also need to be excluded in this situation.

Disequilibrium- the most likely cause of this condition is either medications, high blood pressure, some complimentary medical therapies, neck problems, eye problems, joint position sense loss such as a B12 deficiency, stroke, tumour, concussion or possibly a cerebral bleed.

The treatment of dizziness is very much related to the underlying diagnosis. Vertigo can be treated with a variety of different medications and specific neck exercises. Pre-syncope and disequilibrium are treated by making a specific diagnosis and treating the cause.

The key point with dizziness is that all dizziness is not vertigo and is often some other diagnosis.

Written by

Dr Walker is an expert in the field of preventative cardiology and has published seven books. He gives lectures nationally and internationally.

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