What causes dizziness and motion sickness
Questions we will cover:
- What is dizziness?
- What causes dizziness?
- How will my dizziness be treated?
- When to seek medical attention?
There are many causes for feeling unsteady or dizzy such as poor circulation, inner ear issues, medications, injury, infection, allergies, or neurological disease. Dizziness is treatable. It is important for your ENT doctor to help you determine the cause of your dizziness so that the correct treatment is provided. Every person is affected differently, but symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor include high fevers, severe headaches, vomiting, chest pain, heart palpitations, convulsions, shortness of breath, hearing loss, inability to move an arm, or leg, or a change in vision or speech.
Dizziness is a feeling of being lightheaded, unsteady, giddy, or a floating sensation. Vertigo is a specific type of dizziness that feels like an illusion of movement of one’s self or the environment, a spinning sensation. Some people experience dizziness as motion sickness which is a nauseating feeling that is brought on by motion. This motion could be riding in an airplane, a roller coaster, a boat, a car, or even an elevator. Dizziness, vertigo, and motion sickness are all related to your sense of balance and equilibrium. Your balance is maintained by a complex interaction of different parts of the nervous system.
- The inner ear or labyrinth monitors the directions of motion, like turning, rolling, forward-backward, side-to-side, or up-and-down.
- The eyes monitor where the body is, upside down, right side up, and directions of motion.
- The pressure receptors in the joints tell what part of the body is down and touching the ground.
- The muscle and joint sensory receptors or proprioception signal what parts of the body are moving.
- The central nervous system processes all the information from the other systems to maintain equilibrium and balance.
The symptoms of motion sickness or dizziness often appear when the central nervous system is receiving conflicting messages from the other four systems.
If your brain does not get enough blood flow, you feel lightheaded. Almost everyone has experienced this on occasion when you quickly stand up from a lying-down position. Some people may frequently have light-headedness from poor circulation. This could be caused by arteriosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. It is usually seen in patients who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. It can also happen in patients with inadequate heart function, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or anemia (low iron).
There are also certain drugs that decrease the blood flow to the brain including stimulants like nicotine or caffeine. Excess salt in the diet can also lead to poor circulation. Circulation can also be impaired by spasms in the arteries caused by tension, emotional stress, or anxiety.
If the inner ear fails to receive enough blood flow people experience vertigo. The inner ear is sensitive to alterations in blood flow.
A number of neurological diseases can affect balance including multiple sclerosis, syphilis, tumors. These are uncommon causes.
Anxiety: Anxiety can be a cause of dizziness and lightheadedness. Hyperventilation can happen, or just mild dizziness with tingling in the extremities.
Vertigo is the sensation of spinning, usually associated with nausea and vomiting. Vertigo is usually caused by an inner ear issue.
What are the common causes for Vertigo?
- Positional Vertigo is experienced after a change in head position: lying down, turning in bed, looking up, or stooping. It usually lasts around 30 seconds and stops when the head is still. It is caused by a dislodged otololith crystal. It can last for days or months. The Epley repositioning treatment by one of our Colorado ENT otolaryngologists is usually curative. BPV is the commonest cause of dizziness after a head injury.
- Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder with vertigo that can last for hours, nausea, vomiting, and tinnitus or ringing in the ear. The ear may also feel blocked or full. Hearing can decrease as well.
- Migraine sufferers can experience vertigo attacks like Meniere’s disease.
- Infections or Viruses can attack the inner ear. A bacterial infection such as mastoiditis that extends into the inner ear can destroy both the hearing and equilibrium function of that ear, called labyrinthitis.
- An injury or skull fracture that damages the inner ear can produce severe vertigo with nausea and hearing loss. The dizziness lasts for several weeks and slowly improves.
- Allergies can cause dizziness or vertigo.
Routine tests to check blood pressure, nerve and balance function, and hearing. Potentially, additional tests may be needed such as a CT or MRI scan, eye motion tests, warm or cold water, or air is used to stimulate the inner ear (ENG—electronystagmography or VNG—videonystagmography), blood tests, or a heart evaluation. The doctor will determine the best treatment based on symptoms and their causes. Treatments may include medications and balance exercises.
Prevention tips for Vertigo
- Avoid quickly changing position
- Avoid rapid head movement
- Eliminate or reduce products that inhibit circulation (tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, or salt)
- Minimize stress
- Avoid allergic substances
- Stay hydrated
- Medically treat infections, ear infections, colds, flu, sinus congestion, or respiratory infections
Prevention tips for motion sickness
- Don’t read while driving or flying
- Avoid sitting in the back seat
- Avoid seats facing backward
- Avoid strong smells, spicy or greasy foods before and during travel
- Talk to your doctor about medication
Frequently dizziness and motion sickness are mild and self-treatable. But if they are severe or become progressively worse seek the attention of a doctor who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, throat, equilibrium, and neurological systems.