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June 20, 2018  |  Login
 
Dizziness
 
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Ménière's disease is an inner ear disorder characterized by vertigo (feeling as if the room around you is spinning around), tinnitus, and hearing loss.

 

Dizziness is the sensation that you are spinning or that your surroundings are spinning around you. Sometimes the sensation is mild and passes quickly, but it can also be so intense or prolonged that you may lose your balance and fall. Understandably, dizziness frequently produces nausea and vomiting.

Dizziness is not a disease in itself. Like pain, it's a symptom of an underlying problem, and any course of treatment for dizziness must begin with an investigation into the possible causes. Because the body keeps its balance through a complicated interplay of several organs, including the ears, the eyes, the nerves, and the muscles, finding the source of dizziness is not always easy.

Fortunately, dizziness often has its roots in a relatively minor cause. We've all experienced a spinning sensation when standing up too quickly after sitting or lying down for a long period of time; it may happen in airplanes, where there's less oxygen than most of us are used to. Occasional episodes of this kind are nothing to worry about. (If you experience it frequently, however, see a doctor.) Dizziness may also be the result of a fever, motion sickness, hyperventilation, a buildup of a wax in the ear canal, or a reaction to alcohol or drugs-factors that are either easily treated or temporary.

Sometimes, however, the underlying cause takes more effort to address. High blood pressure, anxiety, arteriosclerosis, food allergies, anemia, low blood sugar, hypothyroidism, and diabetes can all lead to dizziness. If nausea, vomiting, and a loss of hearing accompany the dizziness, you may have Ménière's disease, a disorder of the inner ear. In rare cases, dizziness is a warning sign of neurological disease or brain cancer.

If you experience dizziness, first rule out the obvious causes: motion sickness, fever and infection, and drug or alcohol use. In the case of motion sickness or fever, the dizziness will pass when travel or the illness ends. If your problem is related to alcohol or street drugs, stop using them; if you find that you can't, see the substance abuse page. For dizziness related to prescription medications, contact your doctor about alternatives.

If you can't immediately determine the cause on your own, see your doctor. He or she will take a thorough medical history to determine the most likely causes and will probably run a battery of tests. As you and your doctor search for the proper diagnosis, you can use the complementary therapies described further on to relieve your symptoms and reduce your chances of triggering an episode. In some cases, these therapies may resolve the problem altogether.

 
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