Doctors have been puzzled by chronic dizziness for years. A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine sheds some
light on this issue.
Jeffrey Staab, M.D., one of the study’s researchers, states that more often than not the problem stems from a combination of neurological problems, such as migraines and emotional issues, such as anxiety. These two conditions feed off one another in a vicious cycle.
Another study conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine indicates that there is a particular part of the brain responsible for the feelings of instability and dizziness people feel.
Vertigo and Chronic Dizziness
Vertigo gives you a sense that everything is spinning around you. Many times this leads to nausea and/or vomiting.
Chronic dizziness is defined as a feeling of lightheadedness, disequilibrium or vertigo.
There is a feeling of being off balance, which may lead to a fall with severe, painful spasms of your muscles and head. Just like vertigo, chronic dizziness can cause nausea and/or vomiting.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine state that problems like depression, anxiety, migraines, autonomic nervous system disorders and traumatic brain injuries are the main reasons people suffer with prolonged dizziness (1).
Chronic Subjective Dizziness (CSD)
Dr. Staab focused on chronic dizziness, which is many times linked to inner ear problems. He found one type of dizziness mesmerizing, chronic subjective dizziness, which is associated with anxiety. Patients who have this condition feel off-kilter, dizzy, imbalanced and are extremely sensitive to motion stimuli (i.e., motion sickness).
Patients’ dizziness increases when they enter into a visually stimulating environment. Dr. Staab says that too much sensation is entering the brain, which can be disabling. CSD is the second most common diagnosis for patients who suffer with vestibular symptoms (2).
Sixty percent of the chronic dizziness cases in the study were linked to anxiety disorders; nearly 40 percent of the cases were linked to central nervous system conditions such as brain injuries and migraines (3).
Medical Problems and Dizziness
Two-thirds of the study participants had medical issues that initially caused the dizziness, such as inner ear infections. One-third of the patients experienced some kind of emotional event that brought on the dizziness, usually a panic attack
The Inner Ear Vestibular Disorder
The inner ear is responsible for providing the spatial orientation signals and the person’s position to the brain. If there is any kind of malfunction within the inner ear, the body’s gravity sensing mechanism fails.
This causes an individual to become hypersensitive to motion. This is one of the main causes of chronic dizziness (4).
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Researchers from Johns Hopkins say they have identified the region of the brain that controls the dizziness sensations. According to the researchers, there is a key area in the brain that tells us which way is up or down.
Amir Kheradmand, M.D. is a neurology instructor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He conducted the research. He states that our brains have an amazing way of recognizing where we are. Whether we are tilted at an angle or upright, the brain knows even if we cannot see anything (5).
Vision Problems or Ear Damage May Cause Chronic Dizziness
Researchers state that disabling chronic dizziness may be a symptom of vision problems or ear damage. In many cases, it seems the problem is stemming from a disturbance in the ability for the brain to process certain signals.
The processes of the brain that translate the information coming from the eyes about what is upright and from the inner ears about gravity is disrupted.
Unraveling the Mystery
According to the study, there is a tiny area of neural tissue located in the parietal cortex that is involved with this ability. This area of the brain may be responsible for causing people to experience unsteadiness, spatial disorientation, chronic dizziness and a floating feeling. The study focused on this area of the brain because stroke victims with balance problems have damage to this region of their brains. The researchers state that this gives them a place to start thinking about treating people suffering with disorienting dizziness.