You bend down to pick up the paper on your front stoop or get out of bed too quickly, and your head is spinning. You brace yourself against the nearest wall or handrail, and in a moment you are steady on your feet again. Luckily, it is a rare dizzy spell, and once it passes you think nothing of it.
But what if dizziness is an everyday occurrence? What if a walk down the block or bending over to hug your grandchild seems impossible? What if you are so fearful of falling that you will not leave home? If your world is spinning out of control, making you anxious or depressed, it may be time to see your healthcare provider.
A delicate balance
To keep you steady, your brain processes information from a couple of sources, including your eyes and your feet (sensory receptors in your feet tell your brain about the surface you are standing on). But most important is the vestibular system, a bony labyrinth located in your inner ear. Inside the labyrinth are three semicircular canals and two tiny sacs filled with calcium granules. These structures are covered with thin, hairlike fibers and bathed in a thin, watery fluid. The vestibular system reacts each time you move, sending signals about head position to your brain.
Trouble in the inner ear
A viral infection, stroke, head trauma, some antibiotics and wear and tear can disrupt balance by:
- dislodging the calcium granules, a condition called benign positional vertigo
- damaging the hair cells
- causing a buildup of fluid in the inner ear, which increases pressure, a condition called Meniere’s disease
The Vestibular Rehabilitation Program at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas offers help and hope for those who suffer from dizziness caused by vestibular disorders. Our clinically trained physical therapy staff combines the latest evidence-based treatment techniques with our connection to the Vestibular Disorders Association, an organization that has been a highly respected source of scientifically credible information on vestibular disorders for more than 30 years.
This specialized therapy is designed to alleviate the symptoms of vestibular disorders by retraining body awareness senses that correspond with the inner ear, vision and/or receptors in the muscles and joints. An individualized program may include:
- balance exercises
- eye movement exercises
- flexibility training
- strengthening exercises
Why your world may be awhirl
Trouble in the inner ear is not the only reason you may have a spinning sensation. Contributing factors may include:
- high or low blood pressure
- irregular heart rhythms
- drug reactions (especially to sleeping pills, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and aspirin therapy)
Orthostatic hypotension: A common cause of dizziness
Dizzy when you stand up suddenly? Orthostatic hypotension, a temporary drop in blood pressure that occurs when you stand up, may be the problem. As you age, the veins in your legs lose some of their pumping action. Blood may pool in the ankles and legs, leaving less available for circulation. As a result, when you stand suddenly, your circulatory system needs an extra moment to pump enough blood to the brain.
Orthostatic hypotension may be a symptom of a neurological disorder, a side effect of medication or the result of dehydration, so make sure your healthcare provider checks it out.
These steps can prevent a dizzy spell caused by orthostatic hypotension:
- Give your body time to adjust to a new position by standing or sitting up slowly.
- Drink plenty of water and fluids.
- Ask your doctor about wearing special support hose that keep blood from pooling in the legs.
Help where you need it
To schedule a complimentary balance screening or for more information about the Vestibular Rehabilitation Program at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, visit www.bhset.net or call Baptist Beaumont Hospital at (409) 212-5870 or Baptist Orange Hospital at (409) 883-1247.
Sudden dizziness may be a sign of stroke. If dizziness is accompanied by partial or total vision loss in one or both eyes, numbness or tingling in any part of your body, difficulty speaking or weakness in the arms or legs, get immediate medical help.