Dizziness & Balance

Dizziness is the feeling of unsteadiness. It can be caused by a number of different conditions. The most common is an issue with the inner ear.

The inner ear is made up of the semicircular canals, which are responsible for helping you keep your balance, and the cochlea, which is crucial for hearing. Issues with dizziness are typically isolated to the semicircular canal. There are three canals: the horizontal, the posterior and the superior. Each canal is filled with fluid called endolymph and lined with tiny hairs. With every head movement the fluid within the canals moves; this movement activates the tiny hairs, which send an electric impulse to the brain. The three canals all sit at different angles and are each responsible for a different sense of directional balance.

A problem can occur when the information sent to the brain from the semicircular canals does not match the information from your other senses; if this happens you may experience the feeling that your surroundings are moving even though they are not. This is called vertigo. Episodes of vertigo can last for a few seconds to a few hours and can be accompanied by loss of balance, lightheadedness and unsteadiness. More severe cases can include sudden and severe headaches and vomiting.

The most common type of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Those with this condition experience sudden and often intense feelings of spinning and moving. This can be caused by a sudden head movement, such as getting up too fast or getting hit in the head.

Ménière’s disease can cause episodes of vertigo that last for several hours at a time. This disease is caused by a buildup of fluid within the middle ear, which can also lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.

In order to determine the cause of your dizziness your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. A series of tests will then be ordered. An eye movement test is used to see how well your eyes can track a moving object. A Dix-Hallpike maneuver is performed if your doctor suspects you are suffering from BPPV. This test involves moving your head and lying down; your eye movements for the next 45 seconds are then measured.

A posturography is a non-invasive test used to determine what part of your balance system is the cause of the problem. You will stand on a platform and try to keep your balance while the platform moves. A safety harness is worn to ensure you are not injured during this test. A rotary-chair test may also be performed. This test involves sitting in a moving chair while your eye movements are measured.

Dizziness episodes usually resolve on their own. If the cause of your dizziness is identified there are a few treatment options. Medications may be used for short-term relief. Ménière’s disease is often treated with anti-nausea and water pills. Therapy is the most common long-term treatment. Head position maneuvers, balance therapy and psychotherapy are used to help teach you techniques to deal with dizziness.

If you are experiencing unexplained episodes of dizziness contact our office at 337-266-9820 to schedule an appointment.