Understanding the Causes of Vertigo
Dizziness and/or loss of balance is the second most common complaint doctors hear, and it is the most common complaint in patients over the age of 75. Your bout of dizziness may simply be a fleeting experience, or it may be a symptom of a reoccurring balance condition called vertigo.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 percent of Americans will experience dizziness at some point in their lives, and about 40 percent of the population will report having vertigo at least once in their life. The prevalence of vertigo is greater in women and increases with age, but it can occur in people of all ages, including children. Vertigo as a condition isn’t going to hurt you, but the accompanying symptoms can affect your overall well-being. In mild cases, it might lead to fatigue, struggles at work, and depressed feelings. In more severe cases, it can result in difficulty walking and standing, and it can lead to sudden falls and injury.
Identifying the symptoms you experience might help you identify which type of vertigo you have, and it will help your hearing and balance care provider identify the specific causes of your vertigo. Certain types of vertigo have certain causes, and most equilibrium disorders typically fall into two categories:
<ul> <li>Acute attacks of dizziness or a general loss of balance that may last a few seconds or a few hours</li> <li>A persistent sense of imbalance, unsteadiness, or what some people refer to as a loss of sure-footedness</li> </ul>
So What Causes Vertigo?
Generally, vertigo occurs as a result of a disturbance in equilibrium due to a disorder in the vestibular system, an area in the inner ear responsible for keeping objects in focus as the body moves. Specific vestibular disorders that may cause vertigo include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Ménière’s disease, vestibular neuritis, and ototoxicity (ingestion of a chemical that is toxic to your inner ear). Each of these disorders has their own unique causes, effects, and treatments.
<ul> <li><strong>BPPV</strong> is the most common type of vertigo and makes up approximately 50 percent of vertigo complaints, particularly in older individuals. With BPPV, tiny particles made up of calcium and protein form and break off into the inner ear canals. Head movements cause these particles to shift the inner ear’s nerve hairs, which send signals to the brain that initiate the sensation of vertigo. BPPV is characterized by bouts of vertigo that can be accompanied by weak facial muscles, reduced cognitive function, and hearing loss. Common causes of this type of vertigo include head injuries, infection, and inner-ear degeneration due to aging. </li>