Fainting attacks, heart problems, thyroid problems and brain problems can all give rise to feelings of light-headedness, giddiness and general imbalance.
One form of dizziness is vertigo which is the specific complaint of either the environment moving in relation to the patient or the patient moving in relation to the environment. It is usually a spinning or rotatory sensation. Vertigo is specifically linked to problems with the inner ear. Of the people who suffer from vertigo due to inner ear problems, 99% will recover with time and without any treatment.
All three of these systems give information to the brain about the position of the body in space. Generally people can keep their balance if two of the three systems are working, but they cannot cope with only one system working. This is why most people tend to become more unsteady as they get older, because they may have arthritis in their legs and their neck or poor eyesight.
The balance organ (or labyrinth) is made up of three semi-circular canals and the vestibule, which are all filled with liquid. The semi-circular canals sense rotational movement and the vestibule senses acceleration and deceleration.
Many different factors can affect the inner ear and cause vertigo. One way to distinguish them is by the duration of the dizziness.
Short-lived episodes of dizziness (few seconds to minutes)
An extremely common type of vertigo is benign positional vertigo. This is typically a very sudden onset of dizziness, which settles rapidly after a few seconds or at most a couple of minutes.
It is often started off by the person suddenly looking upwards or sideways, and some people get it when they turn over in bed. In between attacks, the sufferer feels entirely normal. It is probably caused by a little piece of lining coming loose in the inner ear and floating into the balance receptor, causing a sudden increase in nerve stimulus to the brain.
Sometimes the attacks start following a whiplash injury or other head injury, but often there appears to be no reason that they should have started. The attacks usually disappear with time.
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