Why Do We Get Dizzy?

Why Do We Get Dizzy?

Many people in their lifetime experience a sudden feeling of dizziness, be it head spinning, light-headedness, a floating sensation or a loss of balance, sometimes associated with nausea. In fact, dizziness is a frequent complaint.

It is estimated 30% of the general population have experienced moderate to severe dizziness at least once in their lifetime, and nearly 2% of adults seek medical attention annually for a new symptom of moderate to severe dizziness or vertigo.

The prevalence of symptoms of dizziness is particularly high among older people, with between 10% and 30% thought to suffer. Dizziness can be extremely distressing and physically debilitating and can markedly impair quality of life. In older people, in particular, experiencing dizziness makes the sufferer twice as likely to report disability, worsening of depressive symptoms, reduced participation in social activities, poor health and falls.

People generally find it hard to describe their dizziness symptoms and use vague terms such as floating, spinning, unsteadiness and giddiness. This imprecise symptom description is a major reason why dizziness is complex to assess and treat.

Doctors describe it as a feeling of altered orientation in space and classify it into four main subtypes:

  1. unsteadiness caused by leg weakness and impaired sensation
  2. dizziness from severe anxiety
  3. light-headedness
  4. vertigo

Why do we feel dizzy?

Vertigo is diagnosed when patients express having the illusion of head or body spinning. Vertigo tends to be caused by the inner ear (vestibular) - most commonly by the displacement of calcium crystals (small stones in the inner ear whose movement informs the eyes and the brain of horizontal or vertical movements) from their correct chambers in the inner ear – a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV.

As the calcium crystals blunder their way through one of the three inner ear canals, they activate very thin nerve cells (known as hair cells) connected to the brain and the eyes. The hair cells are highly sensitive to any slight movement and their signals to the brain normally reflect head movements and enable eye movements and body posture to be instantly adjusted.

In BPPV, the hair cells incorrectly inform the brain of head movement. This differs from the information provided by the eyes causing disorienting head movement or dizziness. Closing the eyes removes one of the disagreeing sensory inputs and the dizziness subsides.

The Conversation, CC BY-NDThe Conversation, CC BY-NDSimilar feelings of head spinning can also be caused by other inner ear conditions, including vestibular nerve or inner ear infections (neuritis) or blocked vestibular canals, affecting the nervous pathway (called a “reflex”) that links the inner ear and the eyes.

The role of this reflex is to keep stable and clear vision when the head is moving, especially at fast speeds, for instance when walking quickly, running or even sitting in a car on a bumpy road. If this reflex isn’t functioning properly, vision is like watching the world as it appears on a poor quality homemade video: shaky and unstable.

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Almost as frequent is the feeling of light-headedness people experience when getting up after lying on the couch or a bed quickly or from standing up from a chair after sitting for a long time.

In this instance, blood has pooled in our legs and the heart does not increase its beating rate sufficiently to compensate for the increase in blood pressure needed for standing up. This inadequate blood pressure regulation results in too long a time lag for providing the brain with oxygenated blood and dizziness occurs.

How to treat dizziness

Treatments for dizziness include physical manoeuvres such as moving the crystals back into their chamber for BPPV, blood pressure medication management and balance training. Many middle-aged and older sufferers, however, often find it hard to receive a correct diagnosis and are unable to gain relief from their symptoms.

This may be due to the unavailability of diagnostic tests for some inner ear conditions, the off-and-on nature of the problem making it hard to pinpoint, more than one issue leading to the problem and health care providers being only being able to diagnose one or two of several possible causes.

At NeuRA we are completing a study evaluating a one-stop assessment and treatment for dizziness. If successful in reducing dizziness episodes and handicap, we hope to make this strategy available for incorporating in clinical services.

The Conversation

About The Author

Stephen Lord, Senior Principal Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia and Jasmine Menant, Senior Research Officer, Neuroscience Research Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Books:

at InnerSelf Market and Amazon


You May Also Like

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration




children and meditation 9 9
Meditation Has Potential To Treat Children Suffering From Traumas, Difficult Diagnoses Or Stress
by Hilary A. Marusak
Children actively meditating experience lower activity in parts of the brain involved in…
cat being petted
4 Ways To Tell If Your Cat Loves You
by Emily Blackwell
Even the most devoted cat owners wonder at some point whether their cat really loves them.
curous kids 9 17
5 Ways To Keep Kids Curious
by Perry Zurn
Kids are naturally curious. But various forces in the environment can dampen their curiosity over…
baby smiling
Renaming and Reclaiming the Sacred
by Phyllida Anam-Áire
Walking in nature, eating delicious food, poetry, playing with our children, dancing and singing,…
why you should speak up 9
Why You Should Speak Up In Conversations With Strangers
by Quinn Hirschi
In conversations with strangers, people tend to think they should speak less than half the time to…
natural pet food 9 6
Here’s How To Do Raw Meat For Pets Safely
by Veronika Bulochova and Ellen W. Evans
Feeding pets raw meat and fish is a growing trend, popularised by pet breeders, pet-health…
a grandmother helps her grandchild light candles in a church in Lviv
Why News Consumers Experience Crisis Fatigue
by Rebecca Rozelle-Stone
Being attentive to realities like war is often painful, and people are not well-equipped to keep a…
hiding inflation 9 14
3 Ways Companies Change Their Products To Hide Inflation
by Adrian Palmer
There are certain product changes that businesses can and do make to try to quietly fold increased…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.