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What is Dizziness?

Dizziness is not an independent disease but occurs as a symptom in the context of various pathologies. The underlying disease cannot always be precisely identified. It is therefore a major psychological burden for many sufferers.

The term dizziness generally describes the disturbance of spatial perception. There are two types of dizziness:

  1. Systematically directed dizziness (vertigo) with the emergence of an illusion of movement as actual dizziness in the narrower sense
  2. Undirected dizziness without the illusion of movement, rather than a general malaise or feeling of light-headedness

Causes of dizziness

The causes of dizziness are varied and not always precisely definable. An important finding for the further treatment of dizziness is the distinction between vestibular causes (dizziness based on disturbances of the balance organ in the inner ear) and non-vestibular causes. The non-vestibular causes can be attributed to disorders of the central or peripheral nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the eyes, or the psyche.

Vestibular causes

Disorders of the sense of balance in the inner ear are referred to as vestibular causes of dizziness. The inner ear is the part of the human ear that is inside the boney skull. It consists of hearing and vestibular organs and is in constant communication with the brain via its nerve tracts. The balance organ (vestibular apparatus) consists of three semi-circular canals and two so-called macular organs. They contain fluid and hair cells that are responsible for translating mechanical signals from the inner ear into electrical nerve signals. The position of the body in space and acceleration forces are recorded in the inner perceived and passed on to the brain. In diseases of the inner ear, these signals can be distorted, which leads to dizziness.

Indications of vestibular disorders are paroxysmal, sudden dizziness, and dizziness when moving. Even small movements of the head are enough, so dizziness can also occur when lying down. The information from the sense of balance does not match the information from the other senses due to the false illusions of movement. The brain cannot classify the different information, so sudden dizziness, nausea, and vomiting can occur.

Non-vestibular causes

There are many causes of dizziness that are not based on disturbances in the vestibular system. The causes are often comparatively harmless: not drinking enough fluids, dizziness at altitude, or motion sickness (dizziness caused by unusual acceleration). Dizziness can also be caused by serious diseases of the cardiovascular system, the cervical spine, the visual system, or the nervous system. Mental illnesses can also be associated with dizziness.

Dizziness Treatment

Dizziness is a major physical and mental burden. Treating the symptom is very important to prevent falls or complications. The therapy always depends on the cause of the dizziness. If a specific disease is a cause, it should be treated accordingly. But what to do against dizziness?

Basically, it is important to ensure sufficient fluid intake. Drinking a lot prevents blood pressure drops and improves the blood flow to the organs and thus the oxygen supply. Exercise also stimulates the circulatory system and contributes to better blood circulation. Regular endurance sport also strengthens muscles and connective tissue, especially in the legs (the so-called muscle pump). This helps blood flow from the legs back to the heart more easily via the veins.

In the case of known motion sickness and height vertigo, medication against dizziness can be taken if exposure is unavoidable.

If dizziness is suspected as a side effect of certain medications, they should be discontinued if possible and replaced with alternatives.


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