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Dizziness in old age – What is dizziness?
What is vertigo?
Dizziness is not a disease, but an expression of a physical or mental disorder that can have many causes. These are described in the chapter "Diagnosis" described.
Vertigo can manifest itself in different ways: Some sufferers feel as if the environment is spinning around them. Others seem to feel the ground pull out from under their feet, they think they are falling to the side or riding an elevator. But most people feel "only" dizzy dizzy and unsteady. As different as dizziness may be, if the spatial orientation is disturbed, the affected person can no longer find his way around, becomes anxious and helpless.
The proportion of dizziness patients increases dramatically with age: While the total in Germany is about ten percent, one third of those over 65 already suffer from the symptoms, and from the age of 75, dizziness and balance disorders are among the most common complaints of all.
Dizziness is caused by conflicting sensory information. It is important to know that we owe our balance and ability to orient ourselves in space to the interaction of three sensory organs: the equilibrium organ in the inner ear, the eyes and depth perception.
While the organ of equilibrium (= vestibular system) detects and processes the rotational movements of the head and our body, the eyes provide visual information about our surroundings. Muscles and joints (= depth perception) convey to us the position of our body and certain body parts. Without this ability, we would not know whether our legs are stretched or bent under the table. All this information is compared and coordinated in the brain's vestibular center. If the information does not match or is processed incorrectly by the brain, we feel dizzy.
What are the different forms of vertigo?
When vertigo sensations indicate a clear direction, meaning patients feel they are turning, swaying in a certain direction or riding an elevator, it is referred to as systematic or directional vertigo. In most cases, these symptoms are due to a disorder of the vestibular organs in the inner ear (= peripheral-vestibular); more rarely, they are caused by a disease of the brain (= central-vestibular). An acute attack of dizziness is often accompanied by palpitations, nausea, sweating or headaches.
Swaying vertigo Spinning vertigo Elevator vertigo
Directionless, blurred vertigo that causes patients to feel lightheaded and uncertain is called unsystematic, undirected or diffuse vertigo. The cause of these symptoms can lie in the area of the brain and its functions (= central-vestibular) – in older people, undirected dizziness often indicates brain disorders (see chapter 4) – or completely outside the vestibular system (= non-vestibular). Cardiovascular diseases, low or high blood prere, metabolic disorders, psychological problems or medication can also cause dizziness.
Vertigo is also a natural phenomenon. For example, when we are riding in an elevator, the eyes do not perceive any changes in the environment. However, since the muscles do register a change in prere, this contradictory information leads to severe dizziness in some people.