Dizziness, vertigo and balance disorders (2022)

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Summary

Read the full fact sheet
  • Dizziness is often caused by problems of the inner ear and is treatable.
  • Common causes of dizziness related to the inner ear include: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), migraine and inflammation of the inner ear balance apparatus (vestibular neuritis).
  • Dizziness may also be caused by other conditions such as low blood pressure and anxiety.
  • Vertigo is a type of dizziness that feels as though you or your surroundings are spinning.

On this page

  • About dizziness, vertigo and balance
  • Symptoms of dizziness
  • Balance explained
  • Causes of dizziness
  • Diagnosis of dizziness
  • Treatment of dizziness
  • Where to get help

About dizziness, vertigo and balance

Dizziness is one of the most common health problems for adults.

Dizziness can be a range of sensations including feeling light-headed, faint, woozy, giddy, unsteady, off-balance or weak.

Vertigo is a type of dizziness that feels as though you or your surroundings are spinning.

Dizziness is often caused by illnesses that affect the inner ear, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), migraine and inflammation of the inner ear balance apparatus (called vestibular neuritis).

While some people understandably find it difficult to describe their dizziness, a description of your dizziness and the circumstances in which it occurs may be very helpful in reaching a diagnosis.

Symptoms of dizziness

Descriptions of dizziness may include:

  • a sensation of movement (including spinning), either of yourself or the external environment
  • unsteadiness, including finding it difficult to walk in a straight line
  • light-headedness
  • feeling faint.

Other symptoms that may accompany dizziness include:

(Video) VESTIBULAR DISORDER | DIZZINESS & VERTIGO | Balance Disorder Causes, Symptoms, Test and Treatment

  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • ringing or other sounds in the ears (tinnitus)
  • difficulty hearing
  • staggering gait and loss of coordination (ataxia)
  • unusual eye movements, such as flitting of the eyes (nystagmus)
  • blurred vision
  • finding it difficult to see clearly when moving, for example, when reading a sign while walking or driving
  • difficulty concentrating.

Symptoms may be constant or come and go. Episodes can last from minutes to days.

Balance explained

Your sense of balance is controlled by signals to the brain about body movement and your position in relation to the environment. The brain integrates this information and sends signals back to the muscles on how to maintain balance.

Three sensory systems manage balance:

  • vision
  • proprioception – movement sensors in the skin, muscle and joints
  • inner ears – the organ of balance in the inner ear is called the vestibular system. It includes 3 fluid-filled loops (semicircular canals) which respond to the rotation of the head. Near the semicircular canals are the utricle and saccule, which detect gravity and back-and-forth motion.

Dizziness, vertigo and balance disorders (1)

Good balance needs at least 2 of these 3 sensory systems working well. If one system is not working, the other 2 systems help keep you balanced.

If the brain can’t process signals from all of these systems, or if the messages are not functioning properly, you may experience a loss of balance.

Causes of dizziness

Dizziness rarely indicates a serious or life-threatening condition, even though it can be very disturbing and disabling. Symptoms can often disappear with no treatment.

Inner ear disorders cause about half of all dizziness cases including:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – involves intense, brief episodes of dizziness related to moving your head, often when turning over in bed or sitting up. It occurs when particles (otoconia) break loose and fall into the wrong part of the semicircular canals in the inner ear. This gives a sensation of spinning (vertigo). The cause of BPPV is not always known, but it may be a result of ageing or head trauma.
  • Acute vestibular neuronitis or labyrinthitis – an inflammation of the inner ear causing sudden, intense vertigo that may persist for several days, with nausea and vomiting. This can be very disabling and may require bed rest initially. Fortunately, vestibular neuronitis generally subsides and clears up on its own. The cause of this condition is unknown but it may be a viral infection.
  • Meniere’s disease – involves the build-up of fluid pressure in the inner ear. This leads to repeated sudden episodes of vertigo lasting 20 minutes or longer, with changing hearing loss, the feeling of fullness in the ear and buzzing or ringing in the ear (tinnitus). The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown.
  • Vestibular migraine – can cause vertigo lasting from minutes to days with or without headache. Attacks may be triggered by quick head turns, being in a crowded or confusing place, driving or riding in a vehicle, or watching movement on TV. Vestibular migraine may also cause unsteadiness, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Anxiety and stress – can intensify inner ear dizziness symptoms. Anxiety and stress are also the most common causes of dizziness that are not caused by the inner ear.
  • Other causes – including brain related disorders and medical conditions such as low blood pressure.

Diagnosis of dizziness

In trying to work out the cause of a person’s dizziness, investigations may include:

  • medical history, including careful questioning about the nature of the dizziness
  • physical examination, which may include observing eye movements, positional testing and a blood pressure check
  • specialised hearing or balance testing
  • CT or MRI scans of the inner ear or brain
  • other tests relating to specific conditions.

Treatment of dizziness

Treatment for dizziness and balance disorders varies depending on the diagnosis and severity. In mild cases, symptoms may go away on their own as the vestibular system heals or the body learns to adjust.

Treatments may include:

  • medication
  • changing your diet
  • counselling
  • simple home exercises
  • physical therapy
  • surgery, in rare cases.

Vestibular rehabilitation is a physiotherapy program that includes balance activities and eye movement exercises, easily practised at home. The activities restore the best use of your remaining vestibular function, vision, sensation in your feet and balance reactions to help maintain your balance.

Where to get help

  • Your GP (doctor)
  • NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
  • Neuro-otology Investigation Unit, The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital Audiology Service Tel. (03) 9929 8270

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

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Content on this website is provided for information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. The information and materials contained on this website are not intended to constitute a comprehensive guide concerning all aspects of the therapy, product or treatment described on the website. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The State of Victoria and the Department of Healthshall not bear any liability for reliance by any user on the materials contained on this website.

Reviewed on: 11-08-2022

FAQs

What are three common medical conditions that may cause balance issues? ›

Causes
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). ...
  • Vestibular neuritis. ...
  • Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness. ...
  • Meniere's disease. ...
  • Migraine. ...
  • Acoustic neuroma. ...
  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome. ...
  • Head injury.
18 Jun 2020

What causes vertigo and loss of balance? ›

Vertigo is commonly caused by a problem with the way balance works in the inner ear, although it can also be caused by problems in certain parts of the brain. Causes of vertigo may include: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – where certain head movements trigger vertigo. migraines – severe headaches.

What is the main cause of balance problems? ›

What causes balance disorders? Causes of balance problems include medications, ear infection, a head injury, or anything else that affects the inner ear or brain. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness when you stand up too quickly.

How do you get rid of dizziness and loss of balance? ›

Sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. Lie still with your eyes closed in a darkened room if you're experiencing a severe episode of vertigo. Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent dizziness without warning. Avoid using caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco.

How does a neurologist check your balance? ›

The Romberg test is a test that measures your sense of balance. It's typically used to diagnose problems with your balance, which is composed of your visual, vestibular (inner ear), and proprioceptive (positional sense) systems during a neurological exam.

What part of the brain affects your balance? ›

The brain stem and cerebellum are important junctions in the control of balance as they co -ordinate information from the vestibular system, the cerebral cortex, muscles and joints in order to make adjustments to body movements and balance control.

What neurological disorders cause balance problems? ›

Illnesses like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and cervical spondylosis slowly damage the way your nervous system talks to your brain, which can affect your balance.

Can a neurologist help with balance problems? ›

Our neurologists and neurosurgeons diagnose and treat balance dysfunction that is the result of neurologic disorders or neurologic impairment. While the vast majority of balance problems are caused by problems with the inner ear, there may be neurological causes for balance disorders which require neurological care.

Why do I lose balance when I walk? ›

Gait and balance issues can cause unsteadiness and difficulty standing and walking. Depending on the cause, a person may also experience vertigo, dizziness, and motion sickness, for example. Common causes of these issues in adults include musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis, and visual or inner ear problems.

What vitamin is good for balance? ›

Vitamin D may improve muscle strength and function, as well as balance due to the improved strength.

What part of the body controls balance? ›

The vestibular system is one of the sensory systems that provides your brain with information about balance, motion, and the location of your head and body in relation to your surroundings. There are three loops in your inner ear, called semicircular canals. The first canal senses up-and-down movement.

What blood tests are done for dizziness? ›

Routine blood tests – Tests for blood sugar, blood counts, electrolytes and thyroid function help identify cases of dizziness. For example anemia and low blood sugar are known to cause dizziness. This should be differentiated from vertigo.

What triggers vertigo attacks? ›

Turning, tilting or moving your head quickly. Keeping your movements slow and steady should help you to avoid triggering your symptoms. Stress, anxiety and depression can all trigger vertigo attacks. Do what you can to avoid these pressures or to manage them when they can't be prevented.

What medication do doctors prescribe for vertigo? ›

Medicine for vertigo

A number of medicines can be prescribed to help with the symptoms of vertigo. They include prochlorperazine or antihistamines such as cinnarizine, cyclizine or promethazine. These medicines are the same ones that are used to help treat any feeling of sickness (nausea) and motion sickness.

What type of doctor treats balance disorders? ›

If you think that you have a balance disorder, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor with special training in problems of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck.

What will a neurologist do for dizziness? ›

In a general sense, vertigo-associated disease is commonly treated using vestibular blocking agents or VBAs. These include medications such as antihistamines (promethazine or betahistine), benzodiazepines (diazepam or lorazepam), or antiemetics (prochlorperazine or metoclopramide).

Is balance disorder serious? ›

Balance problems are a common symptom of many different medical conditions. Many of these disorders do not require medical treatment. But if you have balance problems, you should see a doctor to rule out serious health problems such as a stroke or tumor.

What are the 3 systems that affect balance? ›

Three systems in the body act in concert to maintain stable orientation and the sensation of being well balanced. These three systems are the visual system, the vestibular (inner ear) system, and the proprioceptive (sensory nerves) system.

Can vertigo cause weakness in arms and legs? ›

These may include: Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body. Sudden vision changes. Sudden trouble speaking.

What is it called when your balance is off? ›

Vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom of various conditions, and it often accompanies a loss of balance. There are two main types of vertigo: Peripheral vertigo: This often results from a condition affecting the inner ear, such as an inner ear infection or Ménière's disease.

Do balance disorders go away? ›

A balance disorder is a condition in which a person frequently feels dizzy or unbalanced while standing, sitting, or lying down and these symptoms continue over a period of time. Most often, balance problems that are not associated with a balance disorder go away on their own within 1-2 weeks.

Does walking help with balance issues? ›

Nearly any activity that keeps you on your feet and moving, such as walking, can help you maintain good balance.

How do you test for balance problems? ›

Common balance tests include:
  • Electronystagmography (ENG) & Videonystagmography (VNG) These tests measure your eye movements. ...
  • Rotary Chair Test. For this test, you will sit in a motorized chair and wear goggles that record eye movements as the chair moves slowly in a circle.
  • Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP)
12 Feb 2020

Can heart problems cause balance issues? ›

Anything that interferes with normal blood flow throughout your body and brain can result in balance and dizziness problems. This includes low blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart failure, and heart valve disease.

Can neck problems cause balance problems? ›

Neck injuries, disorders and conditions sometimes cause more than pain. They can also cause dizziness and poor balance. Cervical vertigo (or cervicogenic dizziness) creates a sensation that an individual is spinning or the world around them is spinning. It also affects your sense of balance and concentration.

Why do I need a brain scan for dizziness? ›

When patients present to the ED with dizziness, oftentimes the provider will order a computed tomography (CT) scan to rule out serious medical problems, such as intracranial bleeding or stroke.

How do doctors test for vertigo? ›

To conduct this test, your healthcare provider will simply turn your head 45 degrees to one side. Then, you'll quickly lie on your back, with your head off the side of the table, maintaining the 45-degree head turn for at least 30 seconds. If you experience vertigo during this test, you likely have BPPV.

Should I see a neurologist or ENT for vertigo? ›

If you experience vertigo for more than a day or you are having regular bouts that are affecting your daily life, you should go and see your ENT to get help alleviating the symptoms and to find out what the cause could be.

What causes weak legs and loss of balance? ›

Peripheral nerves

The nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord can become damaged, which is called peripheral neuropathy. Weakness, numbness, pain and balance issues can be caused by peripheral neuropathy because it makes it difficult to determine where your body is relative to other objects or the ground.

Why do older people lose their balance? ›

Inside the inner ear is the vestibular system, where we perceive balance. This system connects to the brain, which gives us a message when we are about to fall and directs the body to take corrective action. But with age, cells in the vestibular system die off, affecting our ability to correct our position.

What is a balance test? ›

Balance tests are a group of tests that check for balance disorders. A balance disorder is a condition that makes you feel unsteady on your feet and dizzy. Dizziness is a general term for different symptoms of imbalance.

Does B12 help balance? ›

Impaired coordination. Ataxia, or impaired balance and coordination, is a neurological symptom that can be caused by B12 deficiency. As such, a person with B12 deficiency may have difficulty walking and balancing ( 2 ).

Can too much vitamin D cause balance issues? ›

According to the scientists, taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day might not be a problem for young people, but it could compromise older adults' ability to walk or catch balance to avoid a fall.

Does vitamin B12 improve balance? ›

In addition, insufficient intake of vitamin B12 and protein can cause balance problems and difficulty walking, which could increase the risk of falling. Moderate doses of fish oil may help reduce falls among otherwise healthy older adults.

What part of the brain causes dizziness? ›

Central vertigo is due to a problem in the brain, usually in the brain stem or the back part of the brain (cerebellum).

How can you improve your balance? ›

Easy ways to improve your balance
  1. Walking, biking, and climbing stairs strengthen muscles in your lower body. ...
  2. Stretching loosens tight muscles, which can affect posture and balance.
  3. Yoga strengthens and stretches tight muscles while challenging your static and dynamic balance skills.

Can vertigo show up in blood test? ›

This means that these proteins could serve as blood biomarkers, which may help improve the early detection and diagnosis of hearing loss or vertigo. As a result, he has developed and patented the first-ever blood tests for these conditions and is currently testing their promise at UConn Health.

Do you need CT scan for vertigo? ›

CT is not a good first-line test for vertigo, and patients deemed to require imaging should undergo MRI.

Can MRI detect vertigo? ›

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) An MRI scan may be used to help your doctor identify possible causes for your vertigo symptoms and rule out others. It uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the inside of your body.

Can I drive with vertigo? ›

Vertigo could also affect your ability to drive. You should avoid driving if you've recently had episodes of vertigo and there's a chance you may have another episode while you're driving.

What is the most common cause of vertigo? ›

BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. Infection. A viral infection of the vestibular nerve, called vestibular neuritis, can cause intense, constant vertigo. If you also have sudden hearing loss, you may have labyrinthitis.

What are the 3 types of vertigo? ›

Types of Vertigo: Peripheral, Central, BPPV, and More.

What helps vertigo and dizziness go away? ›

Sometimes doctors recommend antihistamines, such as meclizine (Antivert), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) to help with vertigo episodes. Anticholinergics, such as the Transderm Scop patch, may also help with dizziness.

What is the best tablet for vertigo? ›

In general, short periods of vertigo or motion sickness respond well to over-the-counter antihistamines. Two common ones are dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine (Bonine). See your doctor about ongoing episodes of vertigo.

What gets rid of dizziness fast? ›

If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down at once. This will lower your chance of falling down. If you have vertigo, it may help to lie down in a dark, quiet place with your eyes closed. Drinking water may also give you fast relief, especially if you're dizzy because you're dehydrated.

What neurological disorders cause balance issues? ›

Causes of Balance Disorders
  • decreased blood flow to the brain due to stroke or a chronic condition such as aging.
  • traumatic brain injury.
  • multiple sclerosis.
  • hydrocephalus.
  • seizures.
  • Parkinson's disease.
  • cerebellar diseases.
  • acoustic neuromas and other brain tumors.

What are some balance disorders? ›

Types of Balance Disorders
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) ...
  • Labyrinthitis. ...
  • Ménière's Disease. ...
  • Vestibular Neuronitis. ...
  • Perilymph Fistula. ...
  • Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS)

What causes weak legs and loss of balance? ›

Peripheral nerves

The nerves outside of your brain and spinal cord can become damaged, which is called peripheral neuropathy. Weakness, numbness, pain and balance issues can be caused by peripheral neuropathy because it makes it difficult to determine where your body is relative to other objects or the ground.

What causes loss of balance in older adults? ›

Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Multiple Sclerosis are just a few. In addition, arthritis, heart problems, and certain medications seniors take for chronic illnesses can all contribute to unsteadiness.

What type of doctor treats balance disorders? ›

If you think that you have a balance disorder, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor with special training in problems of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck.

Does a neurologist deal with balance problems? ›

Our neurologists and neurosurgeons diagnose and treat balance dysfunction that is the result of neurologic disorders or neurologic impairment. While the vast majority of balance problems are caused by problems with the inner ear, there may be neurological causes for balance disorders which require neurological care.

What part of the body controls balance? ›

The vestibular system is one of the sensory systems that provides your brain with information about balance, motion, and the location of your head and body in relation to your surroundings. There are three loops in your inner ear, called semicircular canals. The first canal senses up-and-down movement.

What part of the brain controls balance and dizziness? ›

Science American explains that the cerebellum – sometimes quaintly known as the “little brain“ – is located at the very back of your skull. The cerebellum controls a number of functions including movement, speech, balance, and posture.

What vitamin is good for balance? ›

Vitamin D may improve muscle strength and function, as well as balance due to the improved strength.

Why do I lose balance when I walk? ›

Gait and balance issues can cause unsteadiness and difficulty standing and walking. Depending on the cause, a person may also experience vertigo, dizziness, and motion sickness, for example. Common causes of these issues in adults include musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis, and visual or inner ear problems.

Why do I feel like I can't walk properly? ›

Injuries, such as fractures (broken bones), sprains, and tendinitis. Movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. Neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and peripheral nerve disorders. Vision problems.

What is it called when you can't walk properly? ›

Ataxia is a loss of muscle control. People with ataxia lose muscle control in their arms and legs. This may lead to a lack of balance, coordination, and trouble walking.

At what age do you start losing balance? ›

Most adults don't think about their balance until they fall. The fact is, balance declines begin somewhere between 40 to 50 years of age. The National Institute of Health reports that one in three people over 65 will experience a fall each year.

How long should a 70 year old be able to stand on one leg? ›

“Typically, a person in their 50s should be able to balance on one leg for around 40 seconds. Someone in their 60s is looking at 20 seconds, and someone in their 70s is around 10 seconds,” Lubetzky continued.

Do balance disorders go away? ›

A balance disorder is a condition in which a person frequently feels dizzy or unbalanced while standing, sitting, or lying down and these symptoms continue over a period of time. Most often, balance problems that are not associated with a balance disorder go away on their own within 1-2 weeks.

Videos

1. Do you suffer from vertigo, dizziness, or loss of balance? You are not alone
(Vestibular Disorders Association)
2. Balance and Dizziness Problems Addressed at Penn Medicine
(Penn Medicine)
3. Dizziness, Vertigo & Balance Disorders Solutions
(Dr. Michael Taggart)
4. Vertigo ( BPPV)/ හිසේ කරකැවිල්ල/ how it happens/ causes/ symptoms/ treatments/ how to prevent
(SL medical conditions)
5. How Do You Treat Vertigo and Balance Problems?
(Baylor College of Medicine)
6. Mental Health Rebalanced
(Vestibular Disorders Association)

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