Almost one third of the world's population will experience a serious dizzy spell at least once in their lifetime. About ten percent of doctor's patients report suffering from dizziness. The causes are manifold and not easy to determine.
Although dizziness attacks belong to a coherent complex, they often differ seriously in their individual form. They can occur for seconds, but also last for longer periods of time. Chronic dizziness is also not uncommon.
People can suffer from vertigo for the same reason and yet not share every symptom.
Rotary vertigo is the most common form of dizziness. It mostly occurs after alcohol consumption. Affected persons feel disturbed in their perception and believes that the world is spinning around them.
Rotary vertigo affects the sense of balance and causes nausea. That is why this type of dizziness is often accompanied by vomiting. Rotary vertigo can also
- occur in the morning after getting up, or
- after the body has been exposed to rapid rotations (e.g. when riding a merry-go-round)
With vestibular vertigo, sufferers have problems walking in a straight line. The symptoms persist even if the person stops and stands still. Whereas rotary vertigo has more of a horizontal effect, in vestibular vertigo the sufferer believes that the ground is being pulled out from under their feet. Vomiting and malaise are also possible here, but much less frequent.
Up-and-down vertigo is similar to vestibular vertigo. However, the affected person does not feel as if a solid floor is being dragged away. Rather, it seems that there is no floor at all and that they are in an incessantly ascending and descending elevator.
Sudden vertigo can manifest itself in different ways. With this type of dizziness, the symptoms disappear as quickly as they came. It can combine symptoms of the other types of vertigo and cannot be precisely classified. The rapid flare-up of symptoms is characteristic.
The causes of dizziness are varied and not always easy to identify. On the one hand, there are age-related dizziness symptoms.
Many children also suffer from dizziness when travelling by boat or car. After the sense of balance has fully developed, these complaints often disappear again during puberty.
With increasing age, the ability to process external impressions in the brain as quickly as possible decreases. That is why about 30 percent of over-65s suffer from frequent dizziness attacks. Under 65, only one in six suffers from severe vertigo attacks.
These vestibular types of vertigo occur when the brain is confronted with information from the vestibular apparatuses (balance apparatuses) and the eyes and cannot evaluate it in time.
On the other hand, subliminal disease patterns are responsible for a perception of discomfort. For example, dizziness occurs as a side effect of
Other causes are found in
- Fluctuations in blood pressure (both too high and too low) or
- Blockages of the cervical spine.
Blockages of the upper cervical vertebrae in particular cause cervical migraine. This manifests itself in severe headaches and dizzy spells.
Causes of dizziness:
- Brain diseases such as tumours
- Symptoms along the cervical spine
- Extreme blood pressure and heart disease
A third type of dizziness is produced by extreme physical states. This includes
- Addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine (especially in withdrawal)
- Psychological states of emergency (panic attacks, hypochondria, stress)
Often, dizziness also arises from psychological factors. Many people imagine they are suffering from serious illnesses and mention dizzy sensations during the examination. These are reinforced by the perceived certainty of being terminally ill.
Dizziness sufferers should consult their GP if the symptoms keep recurring or do not go away. If the doctor is unable to identify a cause for the condition, the patient is referred to a specialist, depending on the GP's suspicions.
On suspicion of
- a psychological or cerebral background, the patient comes under the care of a neurologist.
- Problems with the cervical spine or other blockages are referred to an orthopaedist.
Also specialists for ear, nose and throat medicine deal with the treatment of vertigo.
First, the respective doctor finds out the details of the patient's history (anamnesis). The patient should try to classify and interpret his symptoms in advance. This makes it easier for the doctor to determine the type of vertigo.
The doctor usually checks the pulse and blood pressure, and may also perform an ECG. Such routine examinations serve to exclude possible related causes such as
- Blood pressure disorders,
- Heart problems or
Subsequent neurological tests will check balance. A common method is to have the patient stand on one leg with their eyes closed. Gait tests complete the procedure.
In addition, the doctor can perform a number of hearing tests. The sense of balance has a similar neural pathway to the brain as the sense of hearing. This is why problems with balance can also be found here. In some cases, brain waves are also measured.
There is no general treatment method for every kind of vertigo problem. Patient care depends on the respective diagnosis. Severe attacks of vertigo are treated acutely with antivertiginosa (medicines against vertigo).
For circulatory disorders or high blood pressure, regulating medicines are used. Sport can also help. Physiotherapeutic treatment is considered especially for problems with the cervical spine. Loosening and strengthening the spine also stabilises the central nervous system. The nerves are released from tension and thus no longer cause disturbed perception.
For disorders of the balance system, specific exercises are prescribed to improve coordination and promote balance. Accompanying balance exercises not only train the organs of balance, they also ensure that the brain can better deal with vertigo conditions.
In addition, the patient is often responsible for his or her own actions. Increased consumption behaviour (alcohol, nicotine, drugs) or a poor diet have negative effects on brain performance. A healthy lifestyle not only promotes resistance to disease, it also prevents dizzy spells.