Vertigo and Preventing Falls Among Seniors

Understand vertigo to help avoid falls among seniors.

By Chris Iliades, MD

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of seniors over age 65 fall each year. Falling is the leading cause of injury-related death for seniors and broken bones from falling can lead to a loss of independence. A recent study published in the journal Age and Ageing reports that dizziness is a common cause of falling, that seniors with vertigo are the most likely to fall and that many of these falls among seniors can be prevented by recognizing and treating vertigo.
“Dizziness is one of the commonest symptoms described by older people and is associated with balance disorders, functional decline, reduction in quality of life and falls.” - Age and Ageing

Dizziness, Vertigo and Imbalance

Feeling unsteady on your feet, lightheaded or a false sense of movement are all common complaints in seniors. These dizziness symptoms affect a majority of seniors over the age of 70. One-third of seniors between the ages of 65 and 75 report that feeling dizzy or unsteady is a major concern that diminishes their quality of life.

Common Causes of Dizziness in the Elderly

The first thing you need to know is that not all dizziness symptoms are the same. Vertigo is the term that doctors use to identify the type of dizziness that causes you to feel like you, or the room around you, is actually moving or spinning. This is important because vertigo is the most common type of dizziness that occurs with increasing age, the most likely to cause a fall and a type of dizziness that can often be treated.

All types of dizziness, and especially the type of dizziness called vertigo, can contribute to falls in seniors. The most important thing to know is that dizziness, vertigo and imbalance are not a normal part of aging and that treatment is available. You don’t need to live in fear of falling.

Special Warning Signs For Caregivers

Some symptoms that may be seen with dizziness demand immediate attention. If you are a senior’s caregiver and you note any of the following symptoms along with dizziness, you need to treat it as a medical emergency: