Vertigo and dizziness are common conditions that typically originate in the balance system of the inner ear. Here, signals are received from the eyes, bones and joints, and shared with the brain and nervous system to coordinate movement. Any disruption in these signals can cause balance impairment.

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Symptoms of a Balance Disorder

A balance disorder is characterized by dizziness, vertigo, lightheadedness, blurred vision and disorientation.

Vertigo Dizziness

Additional symptoms may be present; these include faintness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, confusion, fatigue, depression and loss of concentration. Fullness in the ear, tinnitus and hearing loss can also occur.

It should be noted that dizziness and vertigo are not the same. Dizziness is a general feeling of lightheadedness and disequilibrium, while vertigo is characterized by the sensation of movement in your surroundings.

What Causes Dizziness and Vertigo?

A variety of factors can lead to feelings of dizziness or vertigo. A partial list includes:

  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Head trauma
  • Neurological disorders
  • Inner ear abnormalities
  • Vascular disorders
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Medications
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart conditions
  • Benign tumors

Common Balance Disorders

Some of the more common balance disorders include Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), the result of loose calcium crystals in the semicircular canals that move in correlation with changes in head position; Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder caused by abnormal levels of fluid; and labyrinthitis, irritation and swelling of the inner ear.

Treatment options vary, and are based on the underlying cause of your dizziness or vertigo. Possible solutions include medications (antihistamines, sedatives, antibiotics, steroids), surgery, physical therapy, balance retraining exercises (vestibular rehabilitation) and lifestyle modifications (dietary changes, avoiding alcohol and nicotine).

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