Vertigo and the Risk of Falls

Virtually everyone has felt dizzy at some point in their life, whether due to playing spinning games as a child or as the result of illness or medical condition. Whenever you feel like the world around you is moving or spinning, the sensation is called vertigo.

Vertigo and dizziness can often be an early symptom of a medical problem, and it’s a common reason for adults to seek medical attention. While the condition itself isn’t usually a serious sign, vertigo can lead to disorientation and personal danger because of an increased risk of falling.

Adults over the age of 40 face an increased risk of falling due to vertigo caused by inner ear dysfunctions. One of the most common of these is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV.

Symptoms of vertigo

Regardless of the reasons behind your vertigo, the sensations are typically the same. You’ll have a sense that the space around you is moving. You might feel like you’re floating along with light-headedness, as though you might faint. You may also experience nausea.

Of most concern is that these sensations may make you unsteady in the physical world without your normal sense of balance. Some dizziness stems from circulation problems or blood chemistry issues. Medically, vertigo is most often connected with inner ear disorders. The persistent nature of some of these disorders typically increases the risk of related falls.

Maintaining balance

Your body uses a three-point system to establish itself and your balance. Your eyes, inner ears, and associated sensory nerves each collect information that combine to create balance. There’s redundancy in these systems. Perhaps the most obvious example is that you can stand with your eyes closed and not immediately fall over.

However, there’s a need for agreement between the signals that your eyes, ears, and nerves generate over a longer span of time. If inner ear disorders send signals of motion that are at odds with what your eyes and sensory nerves tell you, your brain struggles to make sense of these confused sensory inputs. That is vertigo.

The risk of falling

Fully one-third of American adults have some form of inner ear problem, elevating their risk of being injured because of falls. There are estimates that one-third of this group is unaware of this risk, amounting to about 22 million people, since having an inner ear disorder doesn’t mean they’ve experienced a vertigo episode yet.

Risk climbs, too, as people get older and their bodies are less capable of recovering from a loss of balance or from the damage caused by a fall. Accidental falls are a leading cause of death for the elderly. While not all of these are due to vertigo, addressing inner ear issues could potentially save lives.

Addressing inner ear health

Depending on the underlying condition, there are a range of treatment options available to cope with inner ear problems. These range from medications to treat conditions or symptoms, therapy to help resolve vertigo episodes, and even surgery to disable the balance mechanism in one ear, in extreme cases.

No matter the root of your vertigo, the experts at any office of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates can quickly diagnosis and treat your condition. Call the most convenient location today to arrange your consultation and examination.

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