Dizziness in elderly – causes and treatment

Dizziness is a complaint frequently encountered among the aging population

According to some statistics relating to the issue of dizziness among the aged this is something which is observed more frequently among females and especially from the age of 70 and onwards on average 35% plus females are suffering from dizziness compared to slightly less than 30% among males. The percentage of dizziness occurring increases as the person grows older and by the time when a person turns 80 dizziness is observed in at least 50% of such people. Although such spells of dizziness could be found among young people also but not nearly as frequently as it is encountered among older people and in young people this situation is not as severe as it is among older people where it could definitely affect the well-being and independence of such a person.

Common location / origin of dizziness

The inner ear is responsible for hearing and balance. The subjective complaint of dizziness is often a result of an inner ear problem. Dizziness can result due to inflammation or infection occurring in the inner ear. In the United States alone well over a million people visit clinics annually specifically for the treatment of dizziness. Therefore it can be clearly seen that this is a relatively widespread problem which has a very definite impact upon our society.

One example of a dizziness is known as BPPV or Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo a result of when a person is traveling by boat for the first time and the continual shifting of that boat due to wave motion can cause vertigo problems in many passengers leading to acute seasickness. Like we already said about 50% of all vertigo related problems are experienced after the age of 80 while less than 20% are experienced by people who are younger than this.

Yet again, father time is another common cause resulting in dizziness

A critical system which are required for effective balance of the human body is the vestibular system which is actually a very complex system of fluids and chambers which are part of the inner ear system. There are very sensitive nerve endings in this area that are able to very accurately detect the position of the head as well is the direction of gravity. The brain are vitally dependent on the effective operation of the system in order to maintain the balance of the human body. Many systems which ensure the well-being of the human body are dependent on this vestibular system. Scientific research which has been done in this critical area has shown that the nerve endings in the vestibular system decreases after the age of 55. Likewise effective blood flow to this area also starts to decrease after the age of 55.

Naturally this is not good for the balance of such a person

Such decreases in the effectiveness of the vestibular system will have serious effects on the balance of a person but it might not necessarily accompanied by dizziness. However such problems with the vestibular system will be more noticeable when a person is walking in the dark or when walking on soft or uneven surfaces. The deterioration of the vestibular system can mostly be ascribed to the buildup of debris in the inner ear. This debris are mostly comprised of small crystals of calcium carbonate sometimes referred to as ear rocks. When the head moves these crystals also move resulting in the communication of signals to the brain resulting in dizziness or vertigo. Virtually any kind of head movement will result in a feeling of dizziness when in fact the brain are being fed false information. Although not life threatening this condition can be life changing as it impacts daily activities and often results in fear of falling and this negatively impacts anyones quality of life.

How to deal with dizziness and vertigo

There can be no doubt that this type of affliction can be confusing and could be very stressful on a person over the age of 70. There are however some things which could be done about the situation. The overall physical condition of an older person will contribute positively to excellent physical balance. However when the physical condition of an older person are not so good then it will be significantly more difficult to control this condition. Some of the things which are particularly important are a healthy diet, regular exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle. There are many people who feel that at least some basic tai chi exercises can be helpful in this regard. There are many older people who have been seriously injured due to falling experiences because of dizziness. In fact some reports from the Center of Disease Control and the National Institute of Health account for falls as the leading cause of emergency room visits in the elderly population. A large number of these people have broken bones especially hip bones as well as blunt head trauma. When such a condition are diagnosed as early as possible it is possible to start effective treatment which may be able to prevent serious physical injury.

Analyze the home of such an old person

Is there anything which could increase the risk of serious injury? Naturally it will be vital that all such equipment or furniture or absolutely anything else that could threaten the well-being of such an old person should be removed as soon as possible. Where possible make use of handrails which could be fitted to the walls of a home and ensure that handrails are fitted to the side of the bath. Another important consideration is the lighting in such a home since that would help the old person to see well and to take the necessary precautions where necessary. Because of the significant advances in technology they are many other things which are available in the retail shops like antiskid materials which could be placed in the bathroom where wet surfaces could be a real risk to such an old person. Furthermore look out for cords (phone cords, electrical cords), throw rugs, stacks of news papers and magazines that are about to collapse… all of these are commonly seen in the homes of our elderly and pose significant walking hazzard.

The important thing is not to think as a victim but to be proactive

There are an amazing amount of things which could be done in order to ensure the safety of such an old person and to prevent them from serious injury. Although it will be virtually impossible to remove all risks the reality is that anything which has been accomplished already significantly reduces the risks which are possible. This gives new meaning to the saying that prevention is better than cure and therefore absolutely anything which could be done to make the environment where an older person is living safe may just prevent that person from struggling through a painful injury.

Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.