April 01, 2014

Dizziness

Managing forces of imbalance

Dizziness

You've had vertigo before, so you know that feeling of the world spinning tipped on its side and how it gets worse if you move your head. But what's going on now is different. You explain to your doctor that if you stand up too quickly, you feel kind of dizzy, woozy and unsteady for a few moments.

It's happened often enough that you're in the habit of leaning on or grasping something solid until it lets up. Once it passes, you're fine and carry on as usual. So it's probably not a big deal, right?

Maybe — but it's still important to include your doctor in helping to understand what might cause sensations such as these or others that can compromise your normal balance.

Dizziness and feelings associated with it are a common reason older adults visit their doctors. Aging increases your risk of certain conditions that cause dizziness and especially a sense of imbalance. Sometimes, there's more than one cause at play. Often, though, problems associated with dizziness or lightheadedness aren't life-threatening and can be managed with your doctor's help.

In balance

Maintaining balance requires a finely tuned system working together. To maintain balance, your brain must coordinate sensory information sent to it from different locations. Your eyes process visual signals that help determine where your body is relative to your surroundings. Sensory nerves in your skin, muscles and joints relay neural impulses to your brain about your movements.

Your inner ear sends signals to the brain for the perception of how you are moving in space and also helps control eye movements so that what you're looking...