Amplify that light-headed feeling of dizziness and you have vertigo, an extreme feeling of spinning. The American Medical Association (AMA) says most causes of occasional mild dizziness are minor, such as dehydration with a cold or flu. “Light-headedness without other symptoms is usually not serious.” In contrast, vertigo should be investigated to rule out any underlying health problem.
“Vertigo often indicates an inner ear problem, but it can also signify a problem with the cerebellum or the brainstem. Serious disorders may cause light-headedness, such as insufficient blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which can be caused by a rapid drop in blood pressure. Disorders than can cause light-headedness, usually in addition to other symptoms, include heart valve problems, heart attack, stroke, severe hypotension, or shock,” states the AMA.
“Dizziness can be caused by a poorly functioning balance mechanism in the inner ear. This balance mechanism also helps control eye movements, so often the environment seems to be spinning around. Most dizziness and vertigo have no definite cause and are commonly attributed to a viral infection of the inner ear, especially in young, otherwise healthy people,” the AMA explains. “However, vertigo may be a sign of stroke, multiple sclerosis, seizures, or rarely, a degenerative neurological disorder.”
The Mayo Clinic details when Meniere’s disease may be diagnosed: after two episodes of vertigo, each lasting more than 20 minutes; hearing loss is verified by a hearing test; tinnitus (ringing in the ears); and other medical causes have been excluded.
According to Mayo, “People with Meniere’s typically have problems hearing low frequencies or combined high and low frequencies, with normal hearing in the mid-range frequencies. No cure exists for Meniere’s, but your doctor may prescribe medications to take during a vertigo episode to lessen the severity of an attack.”