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Chronic dizziness is a medical condition in which a person experiences dizziness, usually along with a loss of balance and visual disorientation, on a recurring or constant basis. Most people experience isolated moments of unexplained dizziness from time to time, but the problem isn’t usually considered chronic unless it happens very frequently, normally to the point where it interferes with life or other daily activities. There can be a number of causes, but the condition is perhaps most commonly associated with migraine headaches and inner ear imbalances. Treating these issues will normally address the dizziness as a matter of course. In other cases symptoms can be indicative of blood flow issues, negative reactions or allergies to medication, or mental health issues like acute anxiety. People who are worried about their symptoms are usually advised to get a medical opinion and evaluation. Tests and screens are often the only way to get an accurate diagnosis, which in turn is usually the best route to effective treatment and cure.
Distinguishing Occasional and Chronic Problems
Dizziness is usually described as a feeling of spinning, a sudden loss of balance, and a difficulty in focusing the eyes on stationary objects. Many people also associate mild nausea with the condition. It’s usually considered normal for otherwise healthy individuals to feel dizzy from time to time, particularly if quickly changing position, such as standing quickly, or when moving, as in a car, boat, or plane. The problem only becomes chronic when it comes and goes constantly, and usually also when occurrences aren’t linked to anything definitive. People who suffer from chronic dizziness often experience bouts of disorientation when they’re sitting perfectly still, and episodes may come and go without warning.
Relationship to Migraine Headaches
Chronic dizziness often accompanies migraine headaches. Migraines are believed to occur when blood flow to the brain is decreased, a condition called vertebrobasilar insufficiency. Chronic migraine sufferers may also experience debilitating pain and residual vertigo.
Inner Ear Problems
Inner ear problems also are commonly linked to dizziness. This class of problems often produces a feeling of spinning or turning. Patients may experience balance issues and difficulty when encountering motion stimuli. When certain cells in the inner ear that detect motion change position, false signals are sent to the brain, causing feelings of spinning, balance loss, and general dizziness. This may result from an injury to the inner ear or from an illness.
Blood Flow Issues
Several simple issues may cause lightheadedness, such as allergies or reactions to medications, which can result in dizziness related to imbalances in the blood. Excessive bleeding due to injury or trauma may result in dizziness or fatigue as well. Sometimes the bleeding source is obvious, such as the case of an accident victim or a woman who is experiences extremely heavy menstrual bleeding. Other times, internal bleeding may be occurring that could initially go unnoticed, with lightheadedness being the only obvious symptom.
A myriad of blood flow conditions can also cause dizziness that reaches chronic levels. For example, an abnormal heart rhythm can cause not only dizziness but also fainting spells. Tumors in the ear or brain may also result in dizziness. Problems with blood circulation may also be a culprit and could be a warning sign of a more serious issues, such as an impending stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Some studies have also suggested a link between anxiety and recurring dizziness. A study conducted by Dr. Jeffrey P. Staab between 1998 and 2004 of American patients between the ages of 15 and 89 suffering from recurring dizziness showed a commonality to the causes. Anxiety disorders were present in 60% of the cases, and 38% of the patients' symptoms resulted from conditions affecting the central nervous system, such as migraine headaches or brain injuries. One-third of the cases in the study were connected to anxiety disorders, and two-thirds of the patients experienced dizziness as a result of a medical condition.
Due to the wide range of possible causes of chronic dizziness, patients experiencing any symptoms should consult a physician to rule out any potentially dangerous medical conditions. Additionally, the loss of balance that accompanies dizziness may result in a fall that can cause injury, and some conditions that present with dizziness may prove fatal if left untreated.