Last Updated on September 4, 2023
As we age, our bodies begin to change in different ways. Dizziness (vertigo) in the elderly is a much more common problem than you would think, and some of the causes of dizziness in the elderly are related to health conditions that can affect younger people, too. Lightheadedness in the elderly can lead to an imbalance in the elderly, which can pose a serious safety risk if the person is at the top of the stairs or in the bathroom, for example. Read on to learn more about what causes vertigo in the elderly, what the symptoms are, and how to treat dizziness in the elderly.
Causes of the Vertigo in the Elderly: The Most Common Reasons
If you’re wondering what the most common cause of dizziness in the elderly is, it is a condition known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV occurs in the inner ear and results from the buildup of tiny calcium particles in the inner ear as people age. These spells can be relatively short, but highly uncomfortable, and may be accompanied by nausea, fainting, or falling.
Dizziness from spinal degeneration is the second-most common cause of vertigo in the elderly. A slow progressive degeneration of the spine is directly related to age-related arthritis. Dizziness from spinal degeneration occurs when “mixed messages” get sent to the brain. This type can also cause fainting and falling.
Other causes of general and morning dizziness in the elderly can include:
- Abnormal blood pressure (postural, hypotension)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Labyrinthitis (vestibular neuritis), infection-related ear inflammation
- Meniere’s disease (buildup in the inner ear)
Most causes of vertigo in the elderly can be traced back to temporary or permanent conditions in the inner ear or spine. Some of these conditions can also affect younger people, too.
What Are the Symptoms of Vertigo in the Elderly?
The symptoms of vertigo in the elderly are typically intuitive, but there are times when an older person may not want to communicate that there is something wrong, out of fear. If you see your loved one outwardly struggling with some of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with their general practitioner, a spinal specialist, or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to find out the cause of vertigo in the elderly. Common symptoms include:
- Falling or the feeling of falling
- Confusion or disorientation
- Blurry vision
There can be other symptoms, but these are the most prominent. If you see your loved one struggling to keep balance as they walk, ask them if they’re experiencing any of the above.
What Helps with Dizziness in the Elderly?
Many people wonder, does vertigo get worse with age? Simply put, the answer is yes, because the two top causes of vertigo in the elderly are typically age-related (BPPV and spinal degeneration). To treat vertigo, these conditions often must be treated first. However, conditions such as spinal degeneration are irreversible, so often, other treatments are needed to help with dizziness. Vestibular rehabilitation through physical therapy is a viable option, as is certain medication. Surgery (such as in the inner ear) is also possible. Seniors can also perform balance exercises at home.
There are also “home remedies” that seniors can try to help combat the causes of vertigo in the elderly. You can “fall-proof” your living space and add mobility products such as stair lifts or power recliners, avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, walk with a cane, and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Often a combination of these home remedies with official treatment is the best bet.
- What does it mean to feel dizzy?
Dizziness is often described as “feeling faint,” woozy, nauseous, and unbalanced.
- What is the best treatment for vertigo for the elderly?
Everyone’s treatment will be different, but it’s often a combination of medical intervention and adding modifications in the home.
- Why does vertigo affect older people?
Because many of the conditions that cause vertigo are age-related, such as age-related arthritis/spinal degeneration and BPPV.
- What are the red flags for dizziness in the elderly?
If you see your loved one staggering, losing their balance, or reaching out to hold onto things to walk, make an appointment with their physician.
To learn more about the causes of vertigo in the elderly or to hear about mobility products that can be life-changing, such as stair lifts and power recliners, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want both caregivers and their loved ones to live their best lives possible.