Causes of dizziness
There are a multitude of causes of dizziness which may have nothing to do with the balance organ in the inner ear. 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.
Balance and the ability to remain upright is dependent upon three systems:
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 semicircular canals and the vestibule, which are all filled with liquid. The semicircular canals sense rotational movement and the vestibule senses acceleration and deceleration.
By D Bowdler and R Lloyd Faulconbridge, University Hospital Lewisham
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