Dizziness is a symptom that can be connected to a variety of benign conditions, diseases and neurological disorders. Patients who report feelings of dizziness are usually referring to sensations of being lightheaded, feeling off-balance or feeling like the surrounding environment is spinning (vertigo). Occasional feelings of lightheadedness – especially when standing too quickly – are normal. However, dizziness that gets progressively worse or is classified as vertigo requires medical attention.
What Causes Dizziness
The causes of dizziness can range from mild and benign to serious and life-threatening. Clues often lie in the type of dizziness a patient is experiencing, as well as the frequency and progression of the symptoms. Feelings of being constantly off-balance, for example can be caused by various neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome or peripheral nerve disease. On the other hand, a sudden onset of disequilibrium could signal a more serious problem, such as a stroke.
Vertigo – the feeling one feels after spinning around in circles very quickly – is almost always linked to inner ear or brainstem complications. Inner ear-related vertigo is known as peripheral vertigo and is rarely considered dangerous. If vertigo is found to be caused by an issue affecting the brainstem, however, the condition could be very serious.
A neurologist will work to find the cause of a patient’s dizziness by analyzing symptoms, conducting certain neurological tests and lab tests. A lab test may help identify toxins or deficiencies in the body that are causing lightheadedness. A physician may also order and MRI scan of the head and body. These scans are helpful for detecting tumors or other abnormalities that affect the brain stem.
Treatment for persistent dizziness depends on the cause of the condition and its severity. If a deficiency is found, supplementation and diet changes may be recommended. If dizziness is found to be caused by anxiety, stress-management techniques and medications may be necessary to manage the condition. When dizziness is found to be a side effect of medication, doctors may work with patients to find alternative prescriptions or treatments. Occasionally, doctors and neurologists are unable to detect an underlying cause, but may still prescribe medications to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.