It’s an unfortunately common story that we hear at our clinic. One day, a patient of ours wakes up and is experiencing dizziness – or is it vertigo? What the heck is the difference anyways? When you come to our clinic and tell us about some issues going on with your body, we don’t care which words you use, but it’s always helpful to start off on the right foot when describing your symptoms.
Let’s start with dizziness. This is a common word that people use to describe a lot of different things. Technically, the word “dizziness” should be used to describe the feeling of being “off” or unsteady. This can also include feeling woozy or weak. The key thing that differentiates dizziness from vertigo is the feeling of movement. Whether it feels like your head is spinning or the world is spinning around you, these are the feelings that describe the sensation of “vertigo”.
There are a lot of different reasons why someone might feel a dizziness or vertigo sensation, and over 50% of people aged 65 or older will experience some dizziness or vertigo at some point! Reasons can be as simple as dehydration or low blood pressure or as complex as different medications interacting with each other. Luckily for us, one of the most common cause of vertigo is a simple condition with a long name: Benign Paroxismal Positional Vertigo.
Your body has a few ways to tell that it’s upright. We have our eyes, the sensation from our feet, and the muscles in our neck. All these areas send information to the brain to tell us where we’re at: whether it’s standing tall or laying on the couch. But one of the most important ways that our body knows where it’s at is actually inside of our ears – it’s a labyrinth of 3 tiny tunnels organized in different directions and they all have little crystals inside of them. By being able to feel where the crystals are, the brain gets even more important information about where it is in space.
The problem is sometimes these crystals can get stuck in the wrong part of their tunnels. All of a sudden one of the most important pieces of information about the position of your head is wrong and your brain can’t fix the signal well so it feels like your head, or the room, is spinning. When patients come to see us about spinning sensations, it’s our job to do a lot of tests. One in particular for BPPV, and a bunch of other tests to check to see if it could possibly be a different cause – something much more serious than a crystal in the wrong spot.
As I said a couple paragraphs ago, there are a lot of reasons for dizziness and vertigo. Some are common, some not so much. Some are serious, some not so much. Oftentimes, it’s important to get assessed by a professional to differentiate whether the cause of your symptoms is serious or not. Whether it’s assessed by one of us at The Wellness Zone, your family doctor, or another healthcare professional, we’ll make sure you get the care that you deserve to get you feeling better!