Causes

Non-Vestibular Causes of Dizziness

Dizziness can be linked to a wide array of problems and is commonly linked to blood-flow irregularities from cardiovascular problems. Non-vestibular causes of dizziness are listed below.

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People with vestibular disorders can suffer from poor memory, difficulty reading, poor concentration and can develop anxiety due to the constant unsteadiness.

Aneurysm

An aneurysm is a weak spot in an artery wall that balloons out and allows blood to leak into the vessel walls. An aneurysm is a catastrophic event that can cause severe dizziness and difficulty with walking.

Arrhythmia

An arrhythmia is a irregular or abnormal heartbeat and can result in low blood flow to the brain, causing one to faint or feel faint.

Carotid Sinus Reflex

Carotid sinus reflex works rapidly in younger people but sometimes is much slower in older people, especially those with circulatory problems. The carotid sinus is very sensitive to decreases in blood pressure in the carotid artery. With a drop in blood pressure, the reflex constricts blood vessels in the lower extremities and dilates vessels in the head to maintain a normal blood pressure in the head and adequate blood flow to the brain.

Defective Heart Valve

A defective heart valve usually involves the aortic valve, which when shut down (aortic stenosis) prevents the proper amount of blood from flowing to the brain.

Dehydration

Dehydration can produce lightheadedness through its affect on multiple systems.

Degenerative Arthritis

People with severe degenerative arthritis of the spine can develop bone spurs that may press on the vertebral arteries and interfere with blood supply to the brain.

Embolism

Embolism can occur when an embolus, or blood clot, forms around a heart valve that is not working properly, or is released within the arteries to the brain, causing a stroke. The effects of a stroke may include temporary dizziness. However, if the embolus travels to the vestibular system, it can cause severe dizziness.

Heart Attack

A heart attack rarely causes dizziness; when it does, lack of blood to the brain is the cause.

Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation is a condition resulting from rapid breathing, when more carbon dioxide than normal is expelled. When this happens, the level of carbon dioxide in the blood falls and affects the function of brain cells, causing temporary dizziness.

Medications

Certain medications, including some prescription and over-the-counter drugs, can cause temporary dizziness.

Nervous-System Disorders

Nervous-system disorders such as peripheral neuropathies (diminished nerve function in the legs or feet) and multiple sclerosis can cause unsteadiness.

Orthostatic Hypotension

Orthostatic hypotension is common in older people, especially those with circulatory problems and diabetes. When a person has low blood pressure and pooling of blood in the lower part of the body while sitting or laying down, the process of standing up quickly can cause dizziness and fainting. Normally, body reflexes accommodate such position changes. However, when circulation problems impair these compensation mechanisms, faintness occurs.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that can narrow the openings in the neck vertebrae (bones) through which blood vessels flow. Blockage of these vertebral arteries results in an inadequate blood supply to the base of the brain or brainstem—where the balance information is controlled. This causes symptoms of dizziness and lightheadedness. The condition is termed vertebral basilar insufficiency. If this arterial narrowing takes place gradually over time, other arteries may enlarge and take over some of the function of the affected vessels. This event, called development of a collateral blood supply, can’t happen if the arterial narrowing occurs suddenly (for example, if an embolus completely shuts off the blood supply). In such cases, death by stroke may result.

Stress, Tension, or Fatigue

Stress, tension, or fatigue may cause the brain stem to function less efficiently, resulting in some loss of automatic reflex control of balance. This leads to elevated levels of activity for the cerebral cortex as it works to help maintain balance through the control of voluntary muscle movements. Lightheadedness and unsteadiness can result.

Tumor

A tumor may affect the brain stem, the cerebellum (the coordination center of the brain), or the part of the cerebral cortex that controls voluntary muscle movements.

Vasovagal Syndrome

Vasovagal syndrome is a nervous-system response that causes sudden loss of muscle tone in peripheral blood vessels.

Vision Disturbances

Vision disturbances can occur when a person adjusts to bifocals or a new eyeglass prescription, or must compensate for reduced vision due to cataracts.

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