Feeling Dizzy?

From time to time, we can all experience feeling dizzy but getting to the root cause of this unsettling condition is important to rule out serious health problems including heart disease, stroke or medication side effects.  

According to a recent Global News Lifestyle report, there are several types of dizziness and often it is caused by an inner ear issue that can create vertigo, making people feel like the room is spinning.  Dizziness may also make people feel light-headed, off-balance or like they might faint.   Inner ear problems can be caused by a build-up of ear wax, drainage from allergies or a cold or BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) in which small crystals of calcium become dislodged in the inner ear causing vertigo.  Emergency room doctors may be trained in maneuvers that can help shift these crystals and relieve the symptoms.  People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop BPPV and there are at-home techniques a doctor or physical therapist can teach that should help.  

Dehydration, low blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and certain medications can also be the underlying cause of dizziness.   Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear, can also lead to dizzy spells and hearing loss.  It is often accompanied by vertigo, hearing loss, ringing in the ears and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear.  This is a chronic condition that usually affects young to middle-aged adults.  Talk to your doctor if you have these symptoms, there are treatments that can help. 

Besides talking with your health care professional about any episodes of dizziness, older adults can also help prevent injury by removing any tripping hazards around the home like throw rugs or clutter, limiting alcohol, tobacco, salt and caffeine (which can worsen symptoms) and using an assistive device like a cane to improve stability during episodes.  

In some cases, dizziness may clear up on its own, but the takeaway is that it could be something more and should be investigated.  And because earwax buildup that causes hearing problems or vertigo is a common problem among older adults, it’s important to avoid using Q-tips to clean the ear, which can push the wax in deeper.  Using a soft towel to clean the outer ear is considered safe, but leave the deep cleaning to the professionals.  A doctor or specialized hearing clinic can perform hard ear wax removal.