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Risk Factors for Vertigo

Thursday 25 June 2020
Neurological Disorders

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nick Ho, MD
on 4 September 2020

Table of Contents


I. Understanding Vertigo

II. Age

III. Alcohol Consumption

IV. Head Injury

V. Gender

VI. Blood Flow Problems


Understanding Vertigo

Vertigo is often a misunderstood medical phenomenon. Contrary to popular belief, vertigo is not a disorder in itself, but a symptom of many conditions. Vertigo is characterized by a sensation of feeling off balance and can result in dizzy spells. Vertigo makes you feel like you are spinning, or the world around you is turning. This can be very disorienting, but medications like betahistine (Serc) can help relieve these symptoms. [1]

Typically, vertigo is caused by problems in the inner ear, which throws off a person’s ear pressure and balance. If you have vertigo, you may experience:

  • Spinning
  • Tilting
  • Swaying
  • The feeling of being pulled to one direction

a woman holding her head

More severe symptoms of vertigo can also include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal or jerking eye movement
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hearing loss

Several conditions can cause vertigo, most commonly benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and Ménière's disease. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium particles gather in the ear canal and throw off balance. Ménière's disease is an inner ear disorder that is caused by a buildup of fluid in the ear. These disorders can cause vertigo, but several risk factors may lead to the development of these conditions. You can buy betahistine (Serc) online at reduced prices through Rx Connected. Read on to learn more about risk factors that may raise your risk of vertigo. [1]

Age

When you get older, muscles are weaker, spines start to twist, and bones become brittle. Because of these factors, it is not surprising that 70 percent of individuals over 65 experience vertigo. In younger people, vertigo is more typically caused by viral infections, but that is not always the case for older people. For elderly individuals, dizziness is more commonly a vascular or central nervous system problem. [2]

Older people typically take more medications, and these medications may also cause decreased blood pressure to the brain. BPPV is the most common vertigo-associated illness that occurs in older people. BPPV is caused by positional changes of the head and might occur if you tip your head up or down or when you turn over or sit up in bed. BPPV can be caused by a head injury that an older person may suffer if they are already experiencing balance problems. Luckily, BPPV typically remedies itself and rarely causes complications. [2]

Alcohol Consumption

In most cases, consuming alcohol in moderation is typically safe, but excessive drinking may damage the brain. When drinking excessively, the auditory cortex of the brain can affect how the brain processes sound. A study by German researchers at the University of Ulm found that drinking over a long period damages the central auditory cortex and increases the time it takes to process sound. If this occurs, then you may have trouble distinguishing voices and hearing people who speak quickly. [3]  

Anyone who has had one drink too many knows that alcohol can create problems with balance. This occurs because alcohol changes the volume and composition of fluid in the inner ear. When inner ear fluid is altered, it can cause dizziness, imbalance, and hearing loss. Alcohol is also absorbed into the inner ear's fluid and stays there long after alcohol is no longer present in the blood. This can cause symptoms of vertigo and spatial disorientation the day after a night of drinking. Ringing in the ear (tinnitus) may also occur with heavy drinking. Alcohol causes blood vessels to swell and increases blood flow to the inner ear.[3]

two girls holding alcoholic drinks

Head Injury

If you suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of vertigo and balance problems. The CDC classifies a traumatic brain injury as a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain. A blow or jolt can cause TBIs to the head or a penetrating head injury. Anyone can experience a TBI, but it is more common in small children and older adults. [6]

Between 30 and 65 percent of people who suffer from a TBI experience dizziness and a lack of balance while sitting or standing at some point during their recovery. The severity of these vertigo symptoms depends on the following factors:

  • Where in the brain you were injured.
  • How serious your brain injury is.
  • Accompanying injuries you had along with your brain injury.
  • Medications used to manage medical issues connected with the traumatic event.

A head injury may significantly impact your balance if you suffer from a labyrinthine concussion. A labyrinthine concussion or injury involves isolated damage to the inner ear.  This is an injury to the nerve to the vestibular system, which can cause severe symptoms of vertigo and possible hearing loss. [7]

Gender

Women are more likely to experience vertigo than men. Researchers are not entirely sure why women are more affected, but many speculate hormone fluctuation to be the cause. Hormones are chemicals produced in one body organ and are carried into the bloodstream to another organ, where they cause functional activity. Estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones) are the two most common female hormones. Researchers have found that female hormones are often attributed to inner ear problems (vestibular problems). Women with these issues are more likely to experience vertigo and general imbalance problems.

As is the case with hormones, every woman is affected differently and has different symptoms. It is found that women who experience premenstrual fluid retention have a greater frequency of dizzy spells. Some women report that vestibular problems subside when taking birth control pills or undergoing estrogen replacement therapy. [4]

Women are also more likely to experience migraines that result in severe dizziness.  This is also attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Before puberty, the rate of migraines in boys and girls is relatively equal. But research shows that the frequency of dizzy migraines in women has an abrupt increase around the age of 12, which is when girls typically hit puberty. The prevalence of migraine peaks in women during the middle of their child-bearing years (around 35 years old) and peaks again during menopause.  [5]

three girls embracing each other

Blood Flow Problems

Issues with blood flow can also lead to unsteadiness and dizziness. These conditions are not related to vestibular (inner ear) conditions but are common causes of vertigo. You may be at risk for experiencing dizzy spells if you have the following conditions:

Low Blood Pressure: You may experience low blood pressure after eating if you suffer from postprandial hypotension. This disorder typically occurs after consuming a large meal (usually high in carbohydrates). The body does not compensate for the increased blood flow to the digestive system, which leads to feelings of dizziness, unsteadiness, and blackouts. You may also experience these symptoms if you have orthostatic hypotension. This occurs when your blood pressure drops when you get up quickly from sitting or lying down. This is typically caused by dehydration, standing for too long, or not eating enough. 

Osteoarthritis: You may experience vertigo if you suffer from this joint condition. Osteoarthritis causes damage and swelling of the joints. If the neck joints are affected, the blood flow to the brain can become restricted, resulting in temporary dizziness.

Atherosclerosis: Dizziness may occur if you have increased levels of cholesterol and fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis). This buildup can cause the arteries to harden and narrow, resulting in a reduction in the brain's blood flow. Less blood flow to the brain can lead to dizziness. Atherosclerosis can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle. [8]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.