What are the causes of prolonged dizziness?

Updated November 21, 2016

One type of dizziness is lightheadedness or the feeling you are going to faint. The other type of dizziness is the medical term vertigo. It represents the sensation of constant movement -- everything is spinning around. While lightheadedness tends to stop upon sitting or lying down, vertigo can produce prolonged dizziness. Several factors cause this continued dizziness.

Inflammation of Inner Ear

The inner ear contains semicircular canals with cells that detect motion. These cells send signals to the brain concerning balance. Inflammation of the vestibular nerve of the inner ear, or acute vestibular neuritis, produces intense dizziness or vertigo which can last for days. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting. It can be serious enough to incapacitate an individual and requires bed rest until it subsides on its own.

Migraine Headaches

In addition to the intense pain and visual disturbances associated with migraine headaches, prolonged dizziness can accompany the episodes. Migraines last from a few hours to days at a time. They include sensitivity to light and sense of smell and a throbbing pain usually on one side of the head. The pain may shift from side to side and be accompanied by vomiting and nausea.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's Disease represents another type of inner ear disorder affecting balance and hearing. Prolonged dizziness or vertigo accompanies the disease, normally without warning. The dizziness can last up to several hours. A ringing noise in the ears, or tinnitus, is another symptom of the condition. Like most causes of vertigo, nausea and vomiting occur in many instances. This condition is an uncommon occurrence affecting adults which requires medication and sometimes surgery.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, results from a disruption in the movement of the calcium stones in the inner ear caused by debris. These stones move around when a person stands or turns his head and keep the body in balance. When the stones are blocked vertigo, or dizziness, occurs. The diagnosis of this condition is the positional aspect. Dizziness occurs only in certain positions. If you can move and find a position where the dizziness stops, then BPPV is the diagnosis. Treatments include moving the head to adjust the stones so they can freely move.

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome

This condition, known as Mal de Debarquement Syndrome, or MDD or MdDS -- which causes prolonged dizziness -- occurs following travel at sea, normally a seven-day cruise. It affects mostly women between the ages of 40 and 50. As they leave, or debark, from the cruise ship they continue to experience the rocking sensation of the boat. Although most people recover within one month, cases have been reported lasting months or years. No agreement exists as to its cause. Most physicians believe it is some type of motion sickness but different from the type that can affect anyone who steps ashore after being on the water for a relatively short period of time in any size boat.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Robert Alley has been a freelance writer since 2008. He has covered a variety of subjects, including science and sports, for various websites. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from North Carolina State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina.