Nearly 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia experience dizziness. The dizziness can occur on a daily basis and happen for an extended period of time. Chronic dizziness can be debilitating and increases the risk of falls and injuries.
Dizziness is a term used to describe everything from feeling faint or lightheaded to feeling like the room is spinning and a loss of balance.
There are two main feelings the word dizziness describes:
- Lightheadedness is a feeling you are about to faint. Although you feel dizzy, your surroundings are not moving. Sometimes nausea, paleness, and clamminess accompany a feeling of faintness. Light-headedness is caused by a momentary drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your head. The dizziness often goes away when you lie down.
- Vertigo is a feeling that you or your surroundings are spinning. Vertigo occurs when there is a conflict between the signals sent to your brain by various balance-sensing systems of the body. You may feel nauseated, vomit, have trouble walking or standing and lose your balance and fall.
Symptoms Of Dizziness
The symptoms of dizziness may vary from person to person and may be caused from many different reasons. Common symptoms of dizziness include:
- feeling faint
- feeling disoriented
- loss of balance
- feeling like room is spinning
- difficulty concentrating
- ringing in ears
- visual disturbances
What Causes Dizziness?
It’s not completely clear what causes balance problems and dizziness in fibromyalgia. There are trigger points in the neck and jaw that can cause a feeling of dizziness and imbalance. This may be because they affect the nerves that tell the brain where the body is in space. If these signals do not match with the signals from the eyes, this could cause dizziness and disorientation.
People with fibromyalgia often have problems maintaining blood pressure. Particularly a drop in our blood pressure (hypotension) which causes light-headedness and feelings of faintness. Hypotension is divided into different classifications according to when your blood pressure drops:
- Orthostatic hypotension is the drop in blood pressure that occurs when you transition from sitting or lying down to standing. Orthostatic hypotension can make you feel dizzy or light-headed, and maybe even faint.
- POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) is described as an intolerance to a change of body position, from lying down to upright. There is a dramatic increase in heart rate along with an abnormal drop in blood pressure. POTS stems from inadequate blood circulation that reduces the amount of blood getting back to the heart when rising.
- Neurally mediated hypotension is a blood pressure abnormality brought on by a nervous system reflex. It can occur after exercise, a period of standing (or even just sitting upright), exposure to a warm environment or an emotionally stressful event. Neurally mediated hypotension can cause symptoms such as chronic fatigue, light-headedness, recurrent fainting, nausea, exercise intolerance and cognitive dysfunction.
- Postprandial hypotension is the drop of blood pressure occurring directly after eating. It is more likely to occur in people who have high blood pressure or disorders that impair the brain centers controlling the autonomic nervous system (heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate). Symptoms include dizziness, light-headedness, faintness, and falls.
Other causes of light-headedness are: an illness like a cold or the flu, allergies, low blood sugar, hyperventilation, anxiety, panic attacks and anemia.
Vertigo is a type of dizziness in which a person experiences the perception of motion (usually a spinning motion) due to dysfunction of the vestibular system. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements. Any disturbance of the inner ear fluids may result in acute, chronic, or recurrent dizziness – with or without hearing loss.
One study tested the postural stability (e.g., balance) of 48 fibromyalgia patients and 32 healthy controls. A balance testing system was used to produce a value for the relative fall risk for each person in the study. The fall risk computed for the fibromyalgia group was double that of the healthy control group.
Although all subjects with vestibular-related symptoms, such as ringing in the ears and dizziness, were excluded from the study, vestibular system abnormalities were still detected in the fibromyalgia group. In addition, the sensory signals from the feet (which inform the brain about your stance) and postural reflexes also might contribute to balance disturbances.
Vestibular system dysfunction that cause vertigo include:
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) is the most common cause of vertigo. Small crystals or stones found normally within the inner ear can become displaced and cause irritation. BPPV causes intense, brief episodes of vertigo immediately following a change in the position of your head. It often occurs when you turn over in bed or sit up. Although BPPV can be a bothersome problem, it’s rarely serious except when it increases the chance of falls.
- Inner Ear Inflammation due to an infection or virus. Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis are two disorders resulting from an infection that inflames the inner ear.
- Neuritis (inflammation of the nerve) causes dizziness or vertigo but no change in hearing.
- Labyrinthitis (inflammation of the labyrinth) occurs when an infection affects both branches of the nerve, resulting in hearing changes as well as dizziness or vertigo.
Along with the dizziness, you may experience nausea, vomiting and trouble with balance so severe you may have to stay in bed. The inner ear inflammation often clears up on its own. But if the virus damages the vestibular nerve, chronic dizziness can persist.
- Ménières Disease is a disorder that involves the excessive build up of fluid in the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for your balance, as well as hearing. Ménières disease causes sudden episodes of vertigo with hearing loss, tinnitus (a roaring, buzzing or ringing in the ear) and feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear. The average attack lasts two to four hours. Allergies or autoimmune disorders may play a role in producing Ménières disease
- Vestibular Migraine is a migraine that doesn’t cause a headache, but vertigo. The condition is caused in the same way as traditional migraine headache, but rather than affecting the pain centers, it targets the balance areas of the brain, leading to vertigo. If you are having vertigo attacks and have a history of migraine — especially if you are sensitive to lights or strong smells — then it is probably migraine-associated vertigo. If you get migraines you might want to read Fibromyalgia Headaches and 12 Natural Ways To Relieve Fibromyalgia Headaches
Many medications can cause dizziness, including antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, high blood pressure medications, sedatives, and tranquilizers.
What Can You Do About Dizziness?
More than 2/3 of people with fibromyalgia have regular or daily dizziness. I know I do, it can be debilitating at times. Treatment depends on the cause of the dizziness. Your family doctor is the place to start and can determine the possible causes.
First, your doctor will want to establish exactly what you mean by dizziness. Do you feel light-headed, faint or are you experiencing true vertigo (spinning)?
The doctor will also want to know:
- whether the dizziness started for no apparent reason, or if it followed an illness
- what you were doing at the time of your dizziness
- how long the dizziness lasts
- whether you had any other symptoms – such as fainting, vomiting, nausea, blurred vision, headache, hearing loss or tinnitus
Even with medical treatment, dizziness can be a persistent and reoccurring problem. The following tips are helpful in learning how to manage your dizziness.
- Drink plenty of water, eat small, frequent meals and get plenty of rest
- Change positions slowly when getting out of bed or standing up. Don’t make a sudden head movements.
- Make your home safe – Clear clutter and secure rugs and carpets to avoid falls. Use a rubber mat in the bathtub and shower.
- Use other safety measures – Use a cane or walker if you need to and use the banister when going up and down stairs
One of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is dizziness. Although the symptom sounds rather benign, it is uncomfortable, disorienting and increases the chance of falling, risking an injury. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the dizziness. Even with medical treatment, dizziness can be a persistent problem. Like everything else with fibromyalgia, you may have to learn ways to manage the dizziness.
I had daily episodes of severe vertigo with hearing loss that went on for over 6 months. After antibiotics didn’t work, I saw an ear nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. I had hearing tests and tried oral and nasal allergy medication. Eventually, I had tubes put in my ears. Two years later, the whole thing started over again and I had tubes put in my ears for a second time.
There are times when I feel pressure in my ear, along with very irritating tinnitus and dizziness. There are some things I now do on a daily basis to help prevent it from getting out of hand. You might want to read 10 Tips to Stop Dizziness next.
Do you have problems with dizziness and loss of balance? Have you found anything that helps?