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Reducing Dizziness in Older Adults with Vertigo

senior with family

As a professional caregiver, it’s probably no surprise to you that dizziness and imbalance are two of the most common complaints among seniors, and vertigo is usually the culprit. Vertigo has a number of other symptoms—including nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, and headaches—but often the most bothersome among them is dizziness. That’s because vertigo-related dizziness, unlike some dizziness that’s marked by simple lightheadedness or weakness, feels like the room’s spinning around you. This can not only be a frustrating and disorienting symptom to deal with on a regular basis, but also a risk factor for falls. And since falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in elderly Americans, it’s essential to take steps to reduce dizziness whenever possible. So, what can you do to reduce dizziness in older adults with vertigo? Oftentimes, determining the cause of vertigo can point you in the right direction.

Causes of Vertigo 

The inner ear is responsible for our sense of balance, so when it experiences issues, it can lead to vertigo and its associated dizzy spells. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – The most common cause of dizziness among older Americans, BPPV is the result of tiny calcium particles clumping up in the inner ear canal. It’s often associated with age.
  • Meniere’s disease – Marked by dizziness, tinnitus, and hearing loss, Meniere’s is caused by fluid buildup in the inner ear, which changes the pressure levels.
  • Labyrinthitis – Also known as “vestibular neuritis,” this infection-related condition causes inner ear inflammation that affects the body’s ability to balance.

It’s also worth noting that other conditions can cause dizziness besides vertigo. Make sure to assess your patient’s symptoms holistically to ensure his or her dizzy spells aren’t related to migraine, circulation issues, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, or medication side effects, to name a few.

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Treating Dizziness 

Vertigo-related dizziness sometimes goes away on its own, thanks to the brain’s ability to adapt to inner ear changes. Fortunately, there are treatment options for persistent dizzy spells that don’t self-resolve, including: 

Physical Therapy 

There are two popular types of physical therapy for dizziness: vestibular rehabilitation and canalith repositioning maneuvers. Vestibular rehabilitation—a set of exercises designed to help make the balance system less sensitive to motion—often helps those with inner ear conditions like vestibular neuritis. And canalith repositioning, sometimes referred to as Epley maneuvers, seeks to alter the position of the head to relieve dizziness associated with BPPV. Keep in mind that there are special considerations here for seniors with a back/neck condition, blood vessel issues, or a detached retina.

Medication

There are certain medications that relieve dizziness and nausea, namely antihistamines and anticholinergics. Note that some of the most effective antihistamines can cause drowsiness. If your patient’s vertigo is related to Meniere’s disease, a water pill or low-salt diet could reduce the frequency of his or her dizzy spells. Similarly, migraine-related dizziness can be treated by preventive migraine medication.

Home Remedies

Fortunately, there are plenty of home remedies that can help reduce dizziness in seniors, including: 

  • Walking with a cane and avoiding sudden movements
  • Fall-proofing their living space by tidying up, getting rids of rugs and tangled cords, and adding non-slip mats to the bathroom
  • Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and excessive salt
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet—including staying hydrated to avoid dizziness from dehydration
  • Potentially lowering the dose on medications that include side effects of dizziness (with a doctor’s approval)

Surgery

If your patient’s dizziness hasn’t responded to conservative treatments, there are surgical options available. An injection of the antibiotic gentamicin into the affected ear can disable that inner ear’s function, allowing the other ear to take up the mantle of managing the body’s balance coordination. The affected inner ear can also be surgically removed in a process called labyrinthectomy, but this is usually reserved for patients whose dizziness has refused to respond to any other treatments.

Turn to DispatchHealth

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If your elderly patients are experiencing frequent dizzy spells—or have been sent to the ER multiple times for falls—a partnership with DispatchHealth can help. We offer convenient, same-day, in-home medical care, arriving on the scene within a few hours of a care request. We’ve helped thousands of seniors avoid unnecessary ER visits, treating them within the comfort of their own homes for dizziness, falls, and a slew of other common conditions. We accept most major forms of medical insurance—including Medicare and Medicaid—and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. And requesting care is easy—simply give us a call, use our app, or request care on our website to quickly receive the urgent care your patients require without them having to step foot outside of their residence. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today to learn more about our services! 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4306472/
  2. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28718303/ 
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dizziness/symptoms-causes/syc-20371787
  5. https://www.webmd.com/brain/vertigo-symptoms-causes-treatment#1
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4481149/