Have you ever stood up too quickly and then felt dizzy? Have you felt nauseous while flying in an airplane or riding in a boat?
If you answered yes to either question, you may find comfort in knowing that our ENT doctors are experienced with treating dizziness and vertigo.
Dizziness is treatable, but it is important for your ENT doctor at Northeast Atlanta ENT (with locations in Lawrenceville and Johns Creek/Suwanee) to help you determine the cause so that the correct treatment is implemented.
What is Dizziness?
A person’s sense of balance is maintained by an intricate interaction of the following parts of the nervous system:
The eyes— A person’s eyes monitor where the body is in space (i.e. right side up, upside down, etc). Eyes also monitor directions of motion.
The inner ear (known as the labyrinth)— The inner ear monitors directions of motion (i.e. rolling, turning, forward-backward, side-to-side, up and down).
The pressure receptors located in the joints of the lower extremities and the spine— The pressure receptors determine which part of the body is down and touching the ground.
The muscle and joint sensory receptors (known as proprioception)— These receptors tell which parts of the body are moving.
The central nervous system (the spinal cord and the brain)— The CNS processes all of the information gathered from the four other systems in order to maintain equilibrium and balance. Motion sickness and dizziness occur when the CNS receives conflicting messages from the other four systems.
Vertigo is a particular type of dizziness. When people have vertigo, he or she experiences an illusion of movement of one’s self or the environment. Some people can experience dizziness in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness is the nauseating feeling produced from the motion of riding in a boat, a roller coaster, or an airplane.
Motion sickness, vertigo, and dizziness are all related to a person’s sense of equilibrium and balance.
What Causes Dizziness?
The 5 causes of dizziness include:
certain drugs or medications
We will briefly discuss each…
Dizziness and lightheadedness can cause anxiety for some people. Hyperventilation (unconscious over-breathing) can be experienced as overt panic. It can also be experienced by mild dizziness accompanied by tingling in the feet, hands, or face. The doctor may give patients instructions for correct breathing techniques.
2. Certain Drugs or Medications
Some medications or drugs can decrease the brain’s blood flow. Such medications or drugs include nicotine and caffeine. Also, excess salt in the diet can lead to poor circulation. Circulation can also be impaired by spasms in the arteries, which are caused by anxiety, tension, and emotional stress.
If the inner ear does not receive sufficient blood flow, a more specific form of dizziness and vertigo can occur. The inner part of the ear is very sensitive to minor changes in blood flow. In fact, all of the causes mentioned for poor circulation to the brain also pertain to the inner ear.
Lightheadedness occurs when the brain does not get a sufficient amount of blood flow. If a person stands up too quickly from a lying-down position, he or she may become lightheaded. People can also experience (either on a frequent or chronic basis) lightheadedness from poor circulation. The underlying cause could be arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). People who are susceptible are those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol (high levels of blood fats), or diabetes. Lightheadedness is sometimes evident in patients who have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), anemia (low iron levels), or inadequate heart (cardiac) function.
4. Neurological Diseases
There are a number of nerve diseases that can affect a person’s balance. Such diseases include syphilis, tumors, multiple sclerosis, etc. These are uncommon causes, but your ENT doctor might conduct tests for evaluation.
Vertigo is an unpleasant sensation to experience. People with vertigo feel like the world is rotating. It is usually associated with vomiting and nausea, and is caused by an issue with the inner ear.
Vertigo can be caused by (in order):
Benign positional vertigo: BPV is the most common cause of dizziness after a head injury (including a mild head injury). It can last for days, weeks, or months at a time. To treat it, the otolaryngologist can perform the Epley “repositioning” procedure. A person can experience vertigo after a change in head position (i.e. turning in bed, looking up, stooping, lying down). Vertigo can last approximately 30 seconds and it stops when the head is still. It occurs because of a dislodged otololith crystal which enters one of the semicircular balance canals.
Meniere’s disease: This is an inner ear disorder. A person experiences attacks of vertigo which lasts for hours, vomiting, or nausea, and tinnitus (loud noise or ringing in the ear). These symptoms can make a person feel that their ear is blocked or full. People usually experience a decrease in hearing, as well.
Migraine: If a person has a classical migraine headache history, he or she may experience vertigo attacks—the attacks similar to those who are suffering from Meniere’s disease. Sometimes the person may also experience a headache.
Infection: It is possible for viruses to attack the inner ear. However, typically the attacks occur to its nerve connections to the brain, which causes acute vertigo that can last days without hearing loss (this is called vestibular neuronitis). Labyrinthitis can also occur when a bacterial infection (i.e. mastoiditis) extends into the inner ear, which can completely destroy hearing and the equilibrium function of that ear.
Injury: If someone experiences a skull fracture, the inner ear may become damaged. This can produce a profound and incapacitating vertigo, accompanied by hearing loss and nausea. The dizziness can last for several weeks; it can slowly improve while the other (normal) side takes over. BPV also commonly occurs after a head injury.
Allergy: When exposed to allergens (dust, mold, pollen, dander, etc), some people experience vertigo attacks or dizziness.
When to See a Doctor for Dizziness
It is very important that you call 911 or go to an emergency room if you experience:
Fainting and/or loss of consciousness
Convulsions or ongoing vomiting
Fever over 101°F, headache, or very stiff neck
Dizziness after a head injury
Chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, weakness, a severe headache, change in vision or speech, or inability to move an arm or leg
Consult your doctor right away if you:
Experience a difference in symptoms you have had in the past
Experience hearing loss
Suspect that medication is causing your symptoms
Have never experienced dizziness before
How is Dizziness Treated?
There are two types of treatments for dizziness:
In order to determine which treatment method you need, schedule an appointment with our ENT doctors.
At your appointment we will ask you to describe your dizziness. We can also answer any questions you have.
We will examine your ear, nose, and throat.
Routine tests will be conducted, including blood pressure, nerve and balance function testing (rotational chair testing and posturography), and hearing testing.
A CT or MRI scan of your head may be conducted.
Another test may be ordered, which is a special test of eye motion after warm or cold water or air is used to stimulate the inner ear— an ENG (electronystagmography) or a VNG (videonystagmography).
Blood tests or a cardiology (heart) evaluation may also be conducted in some cases.
Based on your symptoms and their causes, the doctor will determine the best treatment.
How to Prevent Dizziness
There are a number of tips to prevent dizziness:
Drink plenty of fluids.
Avoid substances to which you are allergic.
Avoid rapid head motion (particularly twisting or turning).
Avoid rapid changes in position.
Treat infections (colds, flu, ear infections, respiratory infections, sinus congestion).
Decrease or eliminate the use of products that impair circulation (tobacco, caffeine, salt, alcohol).
Furthermore, if you are subject to motion sickness, you can use the following tips:
Avoid sitting in the rear seat.
Do not read while traveling.
Do not sit in a seat facing backward.
Talk to your doctor about medications, if necessary.
Avoid strong odors, spicy foods, and greasy foods immediately before and during your travel times.
Do not watch or talk to another traveler who is experiencing motion sickness.
Most cases of dizziness and motion sickness are self-treatable and mild. However, if you have motion sickness that progressively gets worse or if you have a severe case of dizziness, see your doctor. Particularly choose a doctor who specializes in the diseases of the ear, nose, throat, equilibrium, and neurological systems.
Still Suffering From Dizziness? Give Northeast Atlanta ENT a Call.
Our doctors at Northeast Atlanta ENT treat dizziness all of the time at our Lawrenceville and Johns Creek office locations. If you are in the Atlanta area, we encourage you to contact us today at our location nearest you!