What is Dizziness?
Dizziness is the feeling of being woozy, giddy or feeling off-balance. It is very difficult to describe. Most of us have felt dizzy as a kid after getting off a roundabout or spinning around just for the fun of it.
There are some other symptoms that people often describe as ‘dizziness’ but in the medical world, we think of them as separate sensations. One of these would be lightheadedness. Lightheadedness is to feel faint like you might collapse. You usually feel that you want to lay down. This is a different sensation from feeling dizzy. Another symptom that is frequently described as feeling ‘dizzy’ but is actually different is the sensation of vertigo. Vertigo is actually a symptom, not a condition. It is the feeling that the room is spinning, you are spinning or your head is spinning. Again, vertigo is distinguished from dizziness because of the spinning sensation.
What causes Dizziness?
Dizziness is a symptom that can be a feature of a variety of problems. Some problems that cause dizziness will require consultation with your Family Physician and medical management. Some examples of these “medical-dizziness” cases would be:
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Vascular Insufficiency
- Mal de débarquement
- Autoimmune inner ear disease
- Medication side effects
- Middle ear pressure changes (from colds or allergies)
- Ototoxicity (exposure to certain drugs or chemicals)
Sometimes, the dizziness is caused by other problems with our “Orientation System”. In order to orientate ourselves in space our brain uses information from three sources:
- Vestibular System – The balance system of the inner ear (labyrinth)
- Proprioceptive System – The ability to sense the position we are in
- Visual System – The things we see
Our brain compares the information coming from these three systems to help us orientate ourselves in space. As long as all the information lines up, you will have a good sense of your position and feel fine. If the information from one of the systems is faulty, then your brain feels disorientated and feelings of dizziness and/or nausea can result.
Dizziness that is the result of faulty information from one of these systems responds very well to rehabilitation. The brain can learn to compensate for the faulty information if it is given enough practice. This is called Vestibular Rehabilitation. Conditions that respond well to Vestibular Rehabilitation include:
- Cervicogenic Dizziness
- Vestibular Hypofunction
- Visual Motion Sensitivity / Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness (PPPD)
- Visual Deficits
- Concussion or Post-Concussion Syndrome
Should I see my Doctor?
It is often helpful to see your Family Physician if you have dizziness so they can look into some of the medical causes of dizziness I mentioned above. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency medical assessment:
- Sudden onset of severe headache
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs
- Double vision
- Rapid heartbeat
- Confusion or slurred speech
- Stumbling or difficulty walking
- Ongoing vomiting
- Sudden onset of hearing loss
- Facial numbness or weakness
What is the Treatment for Dizziness?
The treatment really depends on what is causing the dizziness. If you have one of the medical conditions that cause dizziness that I mentioned above then consultation with your Family Physician is important to get the appropriate medical treatment. However, if you have a problem with one of the Orientation Systems then Vestibular Rehabilitation would be the best treatment.
Since you can not really determine what is causing the dizziness on your own you will need to be assessed by a medical professional.
If anything mentioned above rings a bell you will probably benefit from an assessment by a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist trained in Vestibular Rehabilitation. We can liaise with your family Physician and help organize referral to a specialist if required.
You do not need a referral from your Family Doctor to be assessed by a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist. If you would like to book an assessment please go ahead and click the link below. If you would like more information, please give us a call or fill in the contact form below.