The body’s balance and positioning system relies on signals from the eyes, inner ear, joints, and muscles to maintain equilibrium. Problems in the inner ear can result in conflicting signals and dizziness.
Types of Dizziness
Dizziness is a generic term that refers to a general feeling of unsteadiness or loss of balance. It can be characterized by vertigo, a feeling of spinning that occurs when the brain receives mixed signals, or disequilibrium, a feeling of imbalance without the sensation of spinning. This may happen if the signal path between the body and brain is disrupted.
Some of the more common conditions that cause dizziness include:
- Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV). The most common cause of vertigo, BPV is the result of tiny crystals in the ear canals shifting into the wrong position. It causes episodes of vertigo that last for a few seconds at a time, and may occur several times a day. BPV is usually triggered when the head is moved in a certain way, i.e. turning in one direction, bending, or looking up.
- Meniere’s Disease. Too much fluid in the ear canals can cause pressure and swelling, which affects the balance and hearing signals. This condition, known as Meniere’s Disease, may cause episodes of vertigo that last for hours. Additional symptoms include tinnitus, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and intermittent hearing problems that worsen over time.
- Infection or Inflammation. Viral infections can cause the semicircular canals to swell, resulting in incorrect balance signals to the brain. This may trigger episodes of vertigo that last for hours or days, and may be accompanied by hearing loss.
These conditions may all go away on their own, but respond more quickly to treatment.