Suddenly, it’s as if someone just shook up your entire world like a snowglobe. You’ve lost your bearings. You reach for something sturdy. And the moment seems to spin into oblivion. Once life reverts to stability, you’re left wondering: why am I dizzy?
Like any singular symptom, there are numerous possible causes. There’s more than one way to get a headache, and there’s more than one way to experience dizziness.
In this article, we’ll try our best to address the entire spectrum of imbalance sources. And put you in the right direction to get help at the end.
How do we balance?
First, you must understand where our balance originates because then you can isolate what is contributing to the problems. For instance, you wouldn’t blame your toenails for your dizziness. Although, I suppose if you didn’t cut them for a very long time it might throw off your steps. Yuck!
Anyways, your balance is made up of signals received by the eyes, muscles and joints, and inner ear.
When any one of these sources of input is off, your entire balance system will malfunction. Of course, different problems in each area need a different type of medical attention.
The following are problems associated with each input center.
Eyes, Muscles, and Joints
The main role that these inputs play is in confirming the body’s orientation for the brain to understand. Basically, they help confirm location awareness and coordination. If what you’re seeing/feeling doesn’t match with what your inner ear and brain believe, the result is dizziness, imbalance, or vertigo.
Sources of imbalance:
- Poor eyesight — if you can’t see properly then your body cannot balance properly
- Poor muscle and joint control — if your body can’t feel it’s surroundings how can it support itself
- Nerve damage
For obvious reasons, these are often sources of imbalance for the elderly. The best fixes are to always maintain the optimal eyeglass prescription and continue to keep the body in shape.
Exercises that are great for improving balance:
- Tai Chi
- Leg strengthening (squats, lunges, one-leg stands, etc.)
The Inner Ear
Your inner ear’s involvement in balance is arguably the most critical part. It consists of a complicated system of canals filled with fluid. As your head moves, the fluid in the canals moves. And your brain understands your body’s position based on the fluid’s movement.
Sources of imbalance:
- BPPV — tiny bits of calcium in part of your inner ear get loose and move to places they don’t belong.
- Infection — A viral infection of the vestibular nerve, called vestibular neuritis, can cause intense, constant vertigo.
- Labyrinthitis — Inflammation of the nerves in your ears.
- Meniere’s Disease — too much fluid in the inner ear.
These issues often lead to vertigo, which is the false sense that your surroundings are spinning or moving. With inner ear disorders, your brain receives signals from the inner ear that aren’t consistent with what your eyes and sensory nerves are receiving. Essentially, your brain is confused and tries to sort out the confusion… and the result is vertigo.
When the ears are off, then the entire vestibular system might as well be on break. Because the ears are so crucial to maintaining balance.
Perhaps the most serious of all would be any sort of damage to the cerebellum, which is the movement control center. The cerebellum receives messages about the body’s position from the inner ear, eyes, muscles and joints, and sends messages to the muscles to make any postural adjustments required to maintain balance. It also coordinates the timing and force of muscle movements initiated by other parts of the brain.
The cerebellum is basically the balance coordinator.
Sources of imbalance:
- Concussions — residual damage from a concussion can last for years after the fact and throw off the balance coordinator of the body.
- Degeneration — cellular degeneration would affect how the cerebellum performs.
Former athletes who’ve experienced concussions in the past may still occasionally get dizzy years later because they’ve damaged something in their inner ear or even the brain stem.
Miscellaneous Sources of Imbalance
There are a number of other sources of dizziness that include:
- Low blood sugar
- Poor blood circulation
- Stress and anxiety
So, why am I dizzy?
You’ve probably explored every corner of Google Search to diagnose yourself. Hey, we don’t blame you. That’s why you’re reading this article.
But look at the long list of dizziness causes. That alone should tell you that you need help in diagnosing your source of imbalance.
You wouldn’t reset a broken arm on your own. So why treat your dizziness alone?
What should you do?
See an Audiologist (the kind that treat vestibular problems, not fit hearing aids).
Audiologists are often the best resource to start with because they can test and address the inner ear — the major cause of frequent dizziness and vertigo. Additionally, Audiologists can point you in the right direction if it’s not inner ear-related and connect you with the proper doctor to sort the issue out.
If you’re in the LA area or can travel to LA, then that’s where our office, the Dizzy & Vertigo Institute, is located.