Balance disorders

Dizziness (Vertigo)

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is the collective name for a group of complaints such as:

  • Light-headedness
  • The feeling that you are spinning
  • The feeling that the world around you is spinning, also known as vertigo
  • The feeling that you are about to faint

Dizziness is more common in women than in men. Elderly people are more likely to experience dizziness than young people. In most cases, dizziness has no serious underlying cause.

What causes dizziness?

Dizziness can have many causes. You may have problems with the balance organ which is located in the inner ear. This organ ensures that you can keep your balance and that you can feel the position of your body, i.e., whether you are lying down or standing up. In addition to the balance organ, your sight (eyes) and the feeling in your muscles also determine your balance. If these three do not work together as they should, you can feel dizzy.

The following disorders are characterised by dizziness:

  • BPPD (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). BPPD stands for a benign dizziness, which occurs only occasionally and is related to the position of the head, such as when looking up, bending down, or turning over when lying down. A temporary build-up of calcium in canals of the inner ear is thought to be the cause of this vertigo. Degeneration of the balance organ may also be a contributing factor.
  • Ménière’s disease. This disorder causes not only dizzy spells, but tinnitus and hearing loss as well.

Other causes related to dizziness can include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Hyperventilation
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anaemia
  • Cerebral haemorrhage
  • Cerebral infarction

In addition to the feeling that you or the world around you is spinning, the following complaints can also occur:

  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pallor
  • Cold sweat
  • The feeling that you are about to faint

The duration and severity of the complaints vary per person and depend on what caused them. Dizzy spells usually do not last long. BPPD attacks last only a few minutes, particularly if you repeat the movement that provokes the complaints.
The complaints lessen the more you make the movement. The complaints usually occur over a period of a few weeks.

In the case of Ménière's disease, the complaints can last anywhere between several hours and several days, and recur regularly. Any hearing loss caused by this disorder is often permanent.


Maarten Bakker (41) falls four metres off quay

My wife and children watched me go downhill, from bad to worse

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