Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Causes of Dizziness

Dizziness can be difficult to describe.  Descriptions can be as vague as "my head doesn't feel right" to as specific as "I feel like I am on a boat."  Many people think of vertigo as dizziness and it certainly could be considered dizziness, but vertigo is a specific type of dizziness.  Vertigo is a feeling or perception that the room is spinning or that the individual is spinning when in reality they are not.  Vertigo is almost always caused by disorders of the vestibular system.  Dizziness can be caused by many conditions.  Almost all medications will list dizziness as a side effect.  I generally focus on dizziness that is intermittent, meaning it comes and goes or it feels constant with occasions of exacerbation or increases.  Intermittent or fluctuating dizziness is almost always caused by disorders of the vestibular system.  For example, if a medication is the cause of dizziness, you will be dizzy as long as the medication is in your system and/or you will be able to link the onset of the dizziness to the initiation (or stopping in some cases) of the medication.  In other words, dizziness related to medication is constant or only varies with variations in taking the medication.  Some people also have a hard time distinguishing between dizziness and light-headedness and indeed this can be a fine line.  One distinguishing characteristic is that as light-headedness progresses, an individual will tend to "black out" or lose consciousness making it hard to remember the course of the attack as opposed to dizziness where you are fully aware of the attack or episode. More on that later...

Next blog I will discuss what the vestibular system is and how is it related to dizziness.