Types of Vertigo and Dizziness in the Elderly

Types of Vertigo and Dizziness in the Elderly

Dizziness associated with vestibular disorders is three times more common in elderly people. In fact, even those who consider themselves ‘healthy’ experience more balance problems than they did in their younger years.

Vertigo and dizziness among older adults have different causes. This includes:

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo (the sudden sensation that you are spinning) in the elderly population. It can cause mild to intense dizziness episodes.

In many cases, the cause of BPPV is unknown. Known causes are usually attributed to a blow or trauma to the head. Less common causes of BPPV include inner ear damage and damage occurring in the ears as a result of ear surgery or long periods positioned on the back.

BPPV symptoms include dizziness, a sense that your surroundings are spinning (vertigo), nausea, vomiting, and a loss of balance.

Meniere’s Disease
Although less common than BPPV, Meniere’s disease is still one of the common causes of dizziness and vertigo in adults between the ages 40 and 60.
Meniere’s disease is brought about by the buildup of fluid in the inner canal. It’s a long-term condition that’s often triggered by other conditions such as allergies and viral infections.

People suffering from Meniere’s disease include vertigo that may last longer than half an hour, hearing loss that may result in permanent deafness, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and a feeling of fullness in the ears.

Acoustic Neuroma
It’s a rare form of noncancerous tumor that usually affects middle-aged people. This tumor, which slowly grows from the overproduction of Schwann cells, can press on the hearing and balance nerves of the inner ear. As the tumor continually grows, it can press on the facial nerve and brain structures.
The most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include loss of hearing on one side, tinnitus, dizziness, feelings of fullness in the ears, balance problems, headache, and facial numbness or tingling.

Labyrinthitis
Labyrinthitis occurs when part of the inner ear called the labyrinth is inflamed. This condition can cause vertigo, balance problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, hearing loss, inability to concentrate, and tinnitus.
Many cases of labyrinthitis are caused by a viral infection of the eighth cranial nerve or of the labyrinth itself. Known viruses that can cause labyrinthitis include the herpes, measles, mumps, influenza, polio, hepatitis, and varicella viruses.

Migrainous Vertigo
This is a certain type of migraine where people experience the typical migraine symptoms PLUS vertigo, dizziness, and/or balance problems.

To differentiate migrainous vertigo from the usual migraine, one must see a specialist (an Ears, Nose, and Throat specialist) to rule out other possible causes. The doctor would usually look into the number of migraine episodes, one’s history of migraine, and the presence of vestibular symptoms (vertigo or dizziness) that may last between 5 minutes and 72 hours.

Vertigo and dizziness are no fun. If you or your loved one is experiencing these, a specialist from Greater Knoxville ENT can help. For appointment requests, you may call us at (865) 244-4396.

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