Dizziness is a common symptom or effect seen in many different body states and conditions. People are usually familiar with the feeling of dizziness but might find it hard to describe. It can best be described as a feeling of light-headedness along with a sense of whirling, motion, and spinning. Dr. Alexander Salerno, MD, of Salerno Medical Associates, states that dizziness in the elderly may be due to a mild but annoying condition or it could be due to a life-threatening condition.
Dizziness is one of the leading health concerns for the elderly above the age of 60. Statistics have revealed that about 20% to 40% of adults above the age of 65 living at home experience falls due to dizziness. As noted by Dr. Salerno, the consequences of dizziness and subsequent falls may be disastrous and can cause serious impairments such as hip fractures or other bone fractures or dislocation, as well as creating fear and in turn negatively impacting the daily activities of living.
Due to these serious health concerns, it is vital that the cause of dizziness and imbalance be determined and addressed in an attempt to reduce significant health hazards.
Causes of Dizziness in the Elderly
The causes of dizziness, like its symptoms, are varied, and may be due to simple reasons such as motion sickness; on the other hand, dizziness might be the symptom of a complicated disorder such as diseases of the heart and blood vessels or stroke.
Some of the causes of dizziness are:
- Inner ear problems, which affect the body balance mechanism; these problems include ear infection, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, motion sickness, and Meniere’s disease.
- Dizziness can be due to reduced blood flow to the brain due to dehydration, atherosclerosis, orthostatic hypotension, heart arrhythmias, and transient ischemic attack.
- Certain types of drugs and medications, such as sedatives, antidepressants, blood pressure-controlling drugs, anti-seizure drugs, and tranquilizers, also cause dizziness.
- Anemia is known to cause dizziness.
- Migraine, concussion, panic attacks, and generalized anxiety disorders can lead to dizziness.
- Hypoglycemia often causes dizziness.
- Conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy affect the vision of the elderly, leading to imbalance of the legs and feet and degeneration of the vestibular system, which cause dizziness.
- Muscle strength and the mobility of joints lessen with age and thus lead to imbalance and dizziness in older adults. This part of the normal aging process, combined with age-related conditions such as arthritis and a sedentary lifestyle, make the bones and muscles weak, making mobility unsteady.
- With growing age, one’s diet might also be affected, and poorly balanced meals can also cause symptoms of dizziness.
Treatment of Dizziness in the Elderly
Dr. Alexander Salerno emphasizes that dizziness can be due to a number of reasons and may be an indication of several conditions, ranging from vertigo to inner ear problems, blood vessel-related problems to problems with vision, as well as muscle and bone impairments or serious conditions such as heart disease. However, the actual cause needs to be determined and treated. Because dizziness is a symptom of so many different conditions and diseases, it is vital to discuss the problem with a doctor and ascertain the cause.
Medical treatments and medication such as benzodiazepines can be used for conditions causing dizziness. The elderly should be cared for at home with proper meals, rest, safety measures around the house, and reassuring care.
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.