By Ross Walker

Dizziness is defined as a loss of balance that may affect vision, one's ability to sense body position, or issues with the receptors in the inner ear.

It has been established that around 40% people will seek medical attention because of dizziness at some stage in their life.

There are 3 basic categories of dizziness;

  1. Vertigo: this is basically the sensation of your surroundings moving in a rhythmic fashion.
  2. Presyncope or light-headedness: this is a feeling where you are going to faint, or possibly blackout.
  3. Disequilibrium: this is basically a wonky, woozy or off-balance sensation.

Vertigo is basically an inner ear problem. The common cause of vertigo is benign positional vertigo, which is typically a post-viral phenomenon. Other causes include Meniere's disease, acoustic neuroma, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or brain tumour. Some medications may also cause vertigo.

Presyncope is due to reduction in the blood flow through the artery going to the brain, and especially, the arteries the travel through the back of the neck to the back of the brain.

This may be due to spasm in the so-called vertebral system, along with some cervical spine disease, typically osteoarthritis. Many varying cardiac issues may also cause this phenomenon including heart rhythm disorders, cardiac failure, valve abnormalities and the very common vasovagal syncope. Severe dehydration and blood loss also need to be excluded in this situation.

Disequilibrium could be because of medications, high blood pressure, some complimentary medical therapies, neck and eye problems, joint position sense loss such as a B12 deficiency, stroke, tumour, concussion or possibly a cerebral bleed.

The treatment of dizziness is very much related to the underlying diagnosis. Vertigo can be treated with a variety of different medications and specific neck exercises. Presyncope and disequilibrium are treated by making a specific diagnosis and treating the cause. The key point with dizziness is that not all dizziness is vertigo, and often, some other diagnosis.