It’s a wild world, and up can certainly feel like down sometimes. But that physical sensation of dizziness? That could have any number of causes — especially as you age.
Dizziness comes in several forms.
You might experience “feeling dizzy” as:
- A spinning sensation
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Unexpectedly losing your balance
- A sense of floating
Often, movement will make things worse, and you may feel nauseous too. An episode of dizziness can last minutes, hours or even days.
As we age, we rack up health conditions that cause dizziness.
In some studies, up to 40% of elderly adults reported feeling dizzy on a daily or weekly basis. That’s because dizziness is usually caused by other health conditions, and many of those conditions go hand in hand with aging.
For example: Ever feel lightheaded when you stand up too quickly? That’s because your blood pressure dropped. It’ll probably happen more frequently the older you get, because of age-related changes in how the heart pumps blood through the body.
There are many age-related causes for dizziness.
Here are some of the most common:
- Changes in blood pressure
- Side effects of medications
- Poor circulation
- Vision issues
- Inner ear problems
- Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Stroke or tumors affecting the cerebellum, the part of the brain involved in balance
- Certain heart conditions, like an irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Low blood sugar, a particular risk for those with diabetes
- Low iron
- Greater sensitivity to alcohol
- Arthritis in the neck
- Changes in leg nerves and muscles, which can lead to gait unsteadiness and a dizzy feeling
This can all have a cumulative effect: “If you’re elderly, you may be dealing with several of these conditions at once,” says Dr. Habib.
See a doctor to understand what’s causing your symptoms.
By itself, dizziness isn’t usually a sign of anything more serious.
But it’s important to check in with a doctor to be sure – because dizziness can be dangerous. If it leads to a fall or injury, it can have a major impact on your quality of life.
“Often, your doctor can use specific physical examination maneuvers to pinpoint the cause or causes of your symptoms,” says Dr. Habib. “Then we can recommend the correct treatment, so you can stay safe and start feeling better.”
About one out of 10 patients don’t have a clear cause, but can still improve with medical care.
Even if your doctor can’t find a specific reason for your episodes of dizziness, they can still connect you with the right medical care, adds Dr. Habib. For instance, you might feel better after some physical therapy.
So it’s always worth reaching out to your primary care doctor or geriatrician. For all of life’s twists and turns, that’s one way to feel back on solid ground.