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What causes dizziness and what can be done about it?
Strictly speaking, vertigo is a sensation of spinning, as if the world is spinning around us. Vertigo nearly always arises from problems with the inner ear. The semicircular canals of the inner ear are filled with fluid. When our head turns, tiny hairs within the fluid detect the speed and direction of the movement of this fluid. One of the commonest causes of vertigo arises when tiny crystals enter these fluid filled canals. As we change position, the fluid moves, and these free-floating crystals knock into the tiny hairs, which confuses our brain into thinking that we are spinning around, resulting in transient vertigo. This condition is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Lightheadedness is our next type of dizziness. This is what people tend to experience before they faint, or some people describe it as a head rush. It might also result in blurred vision, fatigue, headaches, and a pale complexion. It occurs when gravity pulls blood down into our legs, away from our brain. If our body cannot react to this drop in blood pressure quickly enough, it can cause lightheadedness, loss of balance, blackouts, or falls. Our final type of dizziness is disequilibrium. This is a feeling of unsteadiness, as if the ground is moving beneath our feet. It tends to be caused by problems with the eyes, inner ear, or nerve signals from the feet and joints.
Dizziness is commonly associated with falls, in fact it usually signifies an underlying medical problem.
In this animation we will see three of the most common forms of dizziness: vertigo, lightheadedness and disequilibrium. Having an understanding of dizziness can help us to uncover the underlying medical causes.
Dizziness is nearly always treatable, does not occur because of ageing and is an important cause of falls. It is what we call a ‘red flag’ – a sign that we need to seek a professional opinion.
While watching the animation see if you have ever experienced any of these feelings. Most of us will have at some point.
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