The lack of control when a dizzy spell, or vertigo, hits you is frightening. The world spins and rocks, the ground feels like it’s giving way, your ears ring, and nausea may grip your gut.
Vertigo feels terribly wrong and frightening and understandably has people wondering, “Why do I get dizzy?”
Several things can cause vertigo and it’s important to understand the underlying cause of your dizzy spells to improve your success in addressing them.
Types of dizziness, or vertigo
Before looking for underlying causes, first figure out what type of vertigo you have.
Peripheral vertigo and dizzy spells
This is the most common cause of dizziness and is usually caused by an inner ear, or vestibular, problem, which plays an important role in balance. Peripheral means on the outside, indicating this is not a brain-based vertigo.
Common causes of inner ear problems include:
BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): A small crystal is floating loose in the inner ear, causing dizziness. This can be treated with the Epley maneuver.
Vestibular neuronitis and labryinthitis: Nerves in the inner ear associated with balance become inflamed, usually due to infection. Using functional medicine and functional neurology approaches to address the infection and inflammation often help.
Meniere’s disease: A chronic inner ear disorder that also causes hearing loss and tinnitus and tends to progressively worsen. Functional medicine autoimmune protocols have been known to help; conventional approaches include medications and surgery in severe cases.
In addition to dizziness, other common symptoms of peripheral vertigo include nausea, vomiting, sweating, pain or fullness in the ear, hearing loss, or tinnitus (ringing in the ear). The vertigo comes and goes and fixing your eyes on a point can help stop the spinning.
Central vertigo and dizzy spells
Central vertigo refers to dizziness caused by brain issues. These causes can be more serious and difficult to treat than most cases of peripheral vertigo.
One distinguishing factor of central vertigo is that fixing your eyes on one spot does not help relieve dizziness. Also, central vertigo episodes are more intense and last for longer periods of time. Although hearing is not as affected as it is in peripheral vertigo, people often experience headaches, trouble swallowing, and weakness.
Factors known to cause central vertigo include head injury, illness, infection, multiple sclerosis, migraines, brain tumors, stroke, transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes), and neurological autoimmunity.
How functional medicine and functional neurology can help address dizziness and vertigo
The first step is to identify what type of vertigo you have and what is causing it. This may involve lab testing to identify chronic inflammation, a blood sugar imbalance, an autoimmune reaction, or other health disorders.
For instance, multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the lining of nerves, can cause vertigo. An autoimmune protocol and functional neurology rehabilitation exercises can help.
Another example is when a head injury causes vertigo—a nutritional and dietary protocol to support brain healing along with functional neurology may help profoundly.
Vertigo is the symptom, not the disease
Your dizzy spells are a symptom of something else. Through functional lab testing, examination, and clinical history, we can help you address your problems with vertigo.