Vertigo, or dizziness, is a very real concern for aging parents. Causes can range from side effects of various medications, low and high blood pressure, variations in blood sugar levels, or other underlying medical issues. And, sudden dizzy spells can increase fall risks and the complications of a fall.
Why so Dizzy?
Our bodies rely on many different things to maintain balance. Most of us are familiar with the fact that the inner ear, or vestibular system, controls much of our balance. This system relies on nerve endings which send information about gravity, position, and movement to the brain. Unfortunately, studies have shown that after the age of 55, we begin to lose nerve endings, and blood flow to the inner ear also starts to decrease.
Certain disorders of the inner ear may cause dizziness. The most common of these is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. This condition can cause vertigo, dizziness, and other symptoms and is most profoundly felt when there is a change in head position, such as rolling over in bed or sitting up. Basically, BPPV is caused by debris in the inner ear, often in the form of calcium deposits.
Ménière’s disease is another disorder that can cause dizziness and sudden spells of vertigo. This is basically caused by fluid buildup in the ear and often produces other symptoms such as a feelings of fullness in the ear and tinnitus. The vertigo, nausea and overall disorientation can be disabling for some patients.
How to Get Back on Solid Ground
So, if your loved one is experiencing vertigo, what can you do? Regular checkups with the doctor are essential for keeping the ear canal cleaned properly. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to control the vertigo. A low-salt diet and diuretics may be helpful for vertigo caused by Ménière’s disease. Exercise may also be helpful as it can help to train the brain to keep track of where things are. For those suffering with BPPV, these exercises may be helpful.
One of the most important aspects of managing vertigo in the elderly is minimizing the risk of falling. Need some tips on making your home a little safer for seniors with vertigo? Check out a few ideas here.
If your loved one suffers from vertigo, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor about solutions that may help him or her get back on solid ground once again.