What causes dizziness and other balance problems?

Balance problems can be caused by a wide variety of problems affecting the inner ear, central nervous system, vision, spine, feet and legs, circulatory system and/or metabolism.  It can be due to something as common as dehydration, or a complex disease or combination of problems.  For many people, dizziness is related to a problem in a portion of the inner ear called the “labyrinth” or “vestibular system.”

Common Causes of Vestibular Disorders:

  • Infection or inflammation related to labyrinthitis, vestibular neuronitis, otitis media or allergies
  • Holes or weak spots in the cochlea (cochlear fistula or dehiscence)
  • Migraine
  • Motion sickness
  • Tumors affecting the auditory nerve
  • Pressure on blood vessels in the neck or brain
  • Displaced crystals in the labyrinth (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo - BPPV)
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
  • Meniere’s disease or endolymphatic hydrops
  • Diseases such as diabetes or other metabolic disorders
  • Changes in health of the inner ear related to aging
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Kidney disease
  • Brain injuries due to concussions or stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

Other Causes of Balance Disorders:

  • Vision problems, especially disorders affecting eye movements and focus
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dehydration
  • Stress, fatigue or inattention
  • Head Trauma
  • Decreased blood flow to the brain
  • Vasovagal Syndrome
  • Peripheral neuropathy affecting the feet and legs
  • Tumors on the brainstem or spinal column
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Arthritis in the neck vertebrae