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10 Surprising facts about dizziness

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Feeling a little lightheaded? Here’s what you should know about causes of dizziness and vertigo.Occasional dizziness is very common in adults, but it may surprise you to learn that vertigo — a related but more serious condition that makes you feel like the room is spinning as you stand still — affects nearly 40 percent of people over 40 at least once, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

While dizziness can make you feel momentarily unbalanced, and ranges in severity from merely annoying to seriously debilitating, vertigo may be a major symptom of a balance disorder. It can also cause nausea and vomiting.To get the facts about both conditions and learn how to differentiate between the two, we asked a few of the nation’s leading experts on dizziness and balance problems to share their insights. Here’s what they had to say:

1.Feeling Dizzy Could Be a Sign of an Inner Ear Problem

“One of the most surprising causes of dizziness is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV,” says Gregory Whitman, MD, an ear and brain specialist with Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s Balance and Vestibular Center at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital. Your inner ear contains calcium and protein-based sensing crystals called otoconia, says Dr. Whitman. If these crystals are dislodged and float into your inner ear’s canals, you may have a brief spinning sensation. “It’s a simple mechanical problem that can and should be corrected with physical therapy, and not with medication or surgery,” says Whitman.

Though BPPV is the most common inner-ear-related balance disorder, it affects only about 1 out of 1,000 people per year, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA). And while it can affect adults of any age, it primarily affects older adults. Most cases occur for no apparent reason, but BPPV has been linked to trauma, migraines, inner ear infections, diabetes, and osteoporosis. After treatment, 50 percent of patients may experience the problem again within five years, especially if it was the result of trauma, say experts at VEDA.

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