Being dizzy and feeling vertigo is one of the worst feelings in the world. I know because I have been there. The good news is that most episodes of dizziness are harmless.
Vertigo and dizziness causes can be due either to a temporary reduction of the blood pressure to the brain or to a change in the pressure of the fluid in the inner ear. In my case, the surgery took care of the problem I had in my inner ear.
What is dizziness?
Dizziness is a condition in which an individual feels a general sense of lightheadedness or that the surroundings are spinning around. It is a symptom of a malfunction in the ear, along the nerve pathways, or in the brain itself. Dizziness can refer to either fainting or vertigo.
- Fainting is a classification of dizziness characterized by a sensation of grogginess, lightheadedness, queasiness, and nausea.
- Vertigo is a form of dizziness in which a person may feel as though the room is whirling about or that he or she is falling down. Vertigo may last for a few minutes or continue for a period of days.
Most common causes of dizziness and vertigo are:
- Meniere’s syndrome
- Motion sickness
- Brain tumor
- A temporary reduction of the blood pressure to the brain
- Angina pectoris
Labyrinthitis – The inner ear is composed of two different types of organs; the cochlea (the spiral cavity of the inner ear) helps with hearing, and the vestibular labyrinth is responsible for maintaining balance. The labyrinth is made up of different sections that are filled with fluids. As the head and body move, the fluids in the chamber shift, sending signals to the brain which then reorients the body. This allows the body to maintain equilibrium, balance, and eye position. Isn’t this mechanism amazing? But if a disorder strikes the labyrinth, the body loses these abilities.
Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a bacteria or a virus infection. Viruses such as the flu, measles, or mumps can result in Labyrinthitis. An infection of the inner ear causes inflammation in the tissues, which disrupts the flow and movement of the fluid that maintain balance.
The main symptom of Labyrinthitis is vertigo, or a sense of spinning. This triggers motion sickness, nausea, dizziness, or vomiting and sometimes temporary hearing loss. If the condition is caused by a viral infection, the condition will go away on its own. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be necessary.
Meniere’s syndrome – The labyrinth is composed of two parts: the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth. The latter is a set of passages responsible for maintaining balance. Fluid in the membranous labyrinth moves as the body moves, touching nerves receptors which signal the brain that the body has changed position.
The brain then directs the rest of the body to adjust its position. In Meniere’s disease, the functioning of the membranous labyrinth is impaired which affects the balance and the body’s sense position (The Cornell Encyclopedia of Health).
Meniere’s disease is caused by an increase in the amount of fluid in the membranous labyrinth which causes the labyrinth to become enlarged or distorted. This may be due to a break in the membranous labyrinth, causing the fluids in this area to mix with other fluids in the inner ear. As a result, the nerve receptors in the labyrinth become overloaded with signals. Not knowing which signal is correct, the brain tries to react to all of them, causing a sense of dizziness or vertigo.
The vertigo or dizziness caused by Meniere’s disease can be accompanied by motion sickness such as nausea, vomiting and sweating.
There is no completely effective cure for Meniere’s disease at this time. A tube may be inserted in the inner ear to drain the excess fluid. A total removal of the labyrinth will cure the condition but it causes complete hearing loss in one ear.
Motion sickness – With motion sickness first you feel weak, then you get dizzy, then nauseated, and then you throw up. Some children get motion sickness virtually every time they go for a ride.
While motion sickness feels like it begins in your stomach, in fact it begins in your inner ear. It is a disparity between what the eye reports seeing (a stable environment like the cabin of a ship) and what the inner ear knows is happening (the constant moving, rolling, and pitching of a moving ship) that causes the problem. The body reacts to the stress with an overproduction of hormones that eventually precipitates the dizziness, sleepiness, fatigue, headaches, and nausea of motion sickness.
Brain tumor – Brain tumors differ from most other tumors because the distinction between a benign growth, which grows slowly, and a malignant –cancerous- growth is less important in the brain than elsewhere in the body. Because a brain tumor can dangerously compress brain tissue within the limited area of the skull, even a benign tumor can cause serious problems.
The general symptoms of all brain tumors include headache, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, seizures and changes in mental attitude and function. Other symptoms depend on the site of the tumor. For example, a tumor of the optic nerve can cause double or blurred vision.
A brain tumor is mainly treated through surgery followed by either radiation or chemotherapy. About 50 percent of brain tumors can be cures nowadays.
Decreased blood supply to the brain – A brain disorder can be triggered by a diminished blood supply to the brain. Brain cells cannot survive longer than a few minutes without oxygen. For example, a stroke can result from a blocked artery or a hemorrhage. Ear, tooth, and sinus infections can lead to a brain abscess.
Brain disorders are more common in older persons and can be caused by high blood pressure, coronary disease, and diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two forms of degenerative brain disease common in the elderly.
Symptoms of brain disorders include:
- Loss of balance
- Memory loss
Angina Pectoris – Angina is a symptom, not a disease. It is the pain that occurs when the muscle of the heart is temporarily deprived of oxygen. The pain is usually felt just to the left of the center of your chest, but it can spread to your throat, back, jaw, and arms, particularly your left arm. The pain of angina is commonly described as dull and constricting. You may also experience sweating, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.
Angina pectoris generally occurs when we are making a physical effort or we go through emotional stress. Treatment will be based on the underlying cause. Losing weight, stop smoking, high blood pressure can all be triggers for angina. The condition may also be treated with medication.
Anemia – Anemia is a condition that occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the blood, resulting in an insufficient amount of hemoglobin for healthy oxygenation of body tissues.
Hemoglobin is made up of heme, an iron-rich compound, and globin, a protein. Each molecule of heme (there are millions in each red blood cell) attaches to a molecule of oxygen in the lungs –a process called oxygenation. This turns the blood in bright red color. When a red blood cell travels to oxygen-poor tissues of the body, the oxygen molecule in the hemoglobin is exchanged for a molecule of carbon dioxide, and the blood turns a dark purple color.
The amount of hemoglobin in the blood is controlled by the body, to a certain extent. When the total amount drops below 14 to 18 grams per 100 milliliters in healthy men or 12 to 16 grams per 100 milliliters in women, the bone marrow will normally go into production mode to generate more red blood cells and more hemoglobin. When this process is disrupted and the blood contains too few red blood cells or too little hemoglobin, the result is anemia.
Lacking adequate levels of hemoglobin, people with anemia become tired, weak, lightheaded, or dizzy.
Among the causes of anemia we find:
- A deficiency of iron
- A deficiency of vitamin B12
- A deficiency of folic acid
- Taking some prescription drugs
- Abnormalities of the hemoglobin or other red blood cells components
- Chronic internal bleeding
If you feel dizzy and you don’t know what is causing it, go see the doctor. As you see here, dizziness can be caused by a non-harmful condition, but other times it could mean a serious problem. Better to go to the doctor and find out it was a false alarm than stay home just to find out that there was a serious problem that could have been taken care of you have paid a visit to your doctor or the emergency room.