You may be familiar with the common symptoms of allergies like a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and hives - but did you know that vertigo can also be associated with a reaction? In this article, we'll look at vertigo and dizziness as allergy symptoms, how they develop, and what to know if you experience it yourself.
Can Allergies Cause Dizziness and Vertigo?
Allergic reactions trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes inflammation. This inflammation can make the inner ear irritated and inflamed, leading to dizziness and vertigo. This will often occur with other allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose or sneezing.
It's worth noting that both dizziness and vertigo are rare allergy symptoms. They're much more likely to be caused by something else - such as inner ear infection or migraines. However, if you experience these symptoms during allergy season or when exposed to allergens, it's worth considering allergies as a possible cause.
How Do Allergies Cause Vertigo?
Allergy-induced vertigo - and vertigo in general - is caused by pressure imbalances within the inner ear. This area plays a significant role in regulating balance, and dizziness can occur when something interferes with its proper functioning. With allergies, this trouble usually starts within the Eustachian tubes.
The Eustachian tubes are a set of small canals that connect the ears and sinuses. They're responsible for draining fluid, equalizing air pressure within the ears, and contributing to the body's sense of balance. The Eustachian tubes also link to the vestibular system within the inner ear, which controls balance and coordination.
When these tubes become inflamed, it can affect the inner ear and cause vertigo, dizziness, nausea, or loss of balance. This is known as Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD), and allergies often trigger it.
Allergic reactions trigger the release of histamine, leading to inflammation in the Eustachian tubes and inner ear. This inflammation can cause fluid buildup, pressure imbalances, vertigo, and dizziness.
What Does Allergy Induced Vertigo Feel Like?
Allergy-induced vertigo feels like any other type of vertigo. Symptoms include dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, nausea, difficulty focusing the eyes, ringing in the ears, and a feeling of spinning or swaying. It may also cause a sense of lightheadedness or faintness.
For some people, vertigo may come and go depending on their exposure to allergens. Others may experience chronic vertigo that lasts for days or weeks.
Vertigo and dizziness directly linked to allergies can also be identified through the potential co-occurrence of other classic allergy symptoms. As part of a broader immune response, you'll likely experience additional reactions like a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and hives.
What Else Causes Vertigo?
Of course, allergies are not the only - or most common - cause of vertigo and dizziness. The condition can develop as the result of a range of factors and vary in severity from person to person. Below are some of the most well-known causes of vertigo.
Inner Ear Infection
Inner ear infections - also known as vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis - are very common causes of vertigo. This type of infection is caused by a virus and usually presents with dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, and hearing loss.
Head and Neck Injuries
In some cases, vertigo is caused by head or neck injuries. These cause damage or inflammation to the vestibular nerve, which regulates balance within the inner ear.
Migraine-associated vertigo is relatively common and can cause severe dizziness and loss of balance. It's estimated that around 40-50% of people with migraine conditions also experience vertigo.
Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that affects balance and hearing. It can cause vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing loss, as well as pressure or fullness in the ear.
Medication Side Effects
Certain medications can cause dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness as side effects, which can eventually lead to vertigo. These include certain antidepressants, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a condition that causes sudden dizziness when the head is moved in certain directions. This is caused by a build-up of calcium crystals within the inner ear, which can lead to vertigo and loss of balance.
Allergy medications themselves can cause dizziness and vertigo. Certain drugs containing antihistamines like Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine) are known to come with side effects like dizziness, so it's possible to experience the symptom as a result of self-medication.
The first and most obvious symptom of vertigo is dizziness, which can be accompanied by other signs and symptoms. These include:
- Loss of balance or coordination
- A feeling of swaying or spinning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Lightheadedness or faintness
- Blurred vision or double vision
Certain lifestyle and biological factors may increase an individual's chance of developing vertigo. These include:
Past Head Trauma
Prior head trauma can be a major risk factor when it comes to inner ear infections and other vestibular disorders. Even minor injuries that occurred many years ago can lead to permanent damage that causes vertigo.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is a common risk factor for vertigo and other balance disorders. Low levels of Vitamin D can cause changes in the inner ear, leading to a loss of balance and coordination.
Smoking has long been associated with a higher risk of developing vertigo. This is because tobacco smoke can damage the inner ear and reduce blood flow, leading to dizziness and lack of coordination.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause changes in the inner ear, leading to vertigo and dizziness. Additionally, high blood pressure can cause many other health problems that could contribute to vertigo-like symptoms.
Older people are more likely to experience vertigo than younger people. This is because age-related changes can increase the risk of inner ear issues, such as infection or degeneration.
Certain conditions and disorders that cause vertigo can be hereditary. If someone in your family has experienced vertigo, you may be at a higher risk of developing the condition yourself.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can both contribute to vertigo-like symptoms, such as dizziness and lightheadedness. These issues can also worsen existing vertigo symptoms.
Excessive drinking can cause inner ear issues that lead to vertigo. It can also worsen existing symptoms and make them more difficult to manage.
How Long Does Vertigo Last?
Vertigo can be a one-time or recurring problem, depending on the underlying cause. In some cases, it can last for just a few minutes, while in others, it may persist for days or weeks. In some circumstances, the condition may even be ongoing and require long-term management.
Individual episodes of vertigo usually don't last more than 24 hours, and in most cases, the symptoms will start to improve within a few days. However, in the case of preexisting conditions like an inner ear infection, vertigo might persist until the underlying cause is treated. Allergy-induced vertigo falls under this umbrella, although the severity of episodes may fluctuate daily depending on your allergen exposure.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience vertigo, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true if the symptoms are severe or last more than 24 hours. You should also seek medical treatment if the vertigo is accompanied by other symptoms.
Vertigo can be a serious problem, not just because it causes disorientation and increases an individual's risk of falling, but also because it can be a sign of other underlying medical conditions. Seeing a doctor can help identify possible causes and get the treatment you need.
How is Vertigo From Allergies Diagnosed?
To diagnose vertigo, doctors will typically perform a physical exam and review your medical history. They may also use imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan to look for abnormalities in the inner ear, as well as other possible causes of vertigo.
If allergies are suspected, doctors may recommend a skin prick test or blood test, which can help identify any allergens that may be causing vertigo. Once the allergens have been identified, you can work on avoiding them or taking steps to reduce your symptoms.
Skin prick tests involve pricking the skin with an allergen to see if there's a reaction. This is usually conducted in a doctor's office and usually results in multiple uncomfortable abrasions across the arm. These tests can be time-consuming and painful.
Blood tests, on the other hand, involve taking a sample of your blood and sending it to a lab for testing. Wyndly’s at-home allergy test is a convenient and easy way to identify your allergies from the comfort of your home.
Treatment for Vertigo
The goal of vertigo treatment is to manage symptoms and reduce the chance of recurrence. Treatment options include:
Certain types of vertigo can be managed with medications, such as antihistamines for allergy-induced vertigo and antibiotics for inner ear infections. It's worth noting, however, that these will only help manage the symptoms and won't cure the underlying cause.
Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise-based therapy designed to help improve balance and coordination. This type of therapy may be used in conjunction with medication to help reduce vertigo symptoms.
Making lifestyle changes such as reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, reducing stress levels, and eating a healthy diet can all help reduce the risk of vertigo. For people with allergy-induced vertigo, avoiding common triggers is also an effective way to lessen the frequency and severity of episodes.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of vertigo. This is usually only necessary in cases of chronic vestibular disorders, such as Meniere's Disease.
In the case of allergy-induced vertigo, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) can be an effective treatment option for long-term relief. SLIT is an allergy treatment where your immune system is exposed to small doses of your allergy triggers. Over time, your body becomes desensitized, reducing the severity of your allergies, and eventually providing lifelong relief.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you think allergies may be the cause of your vertigo, Wyndly can help. Our allergy doctors will work with you to identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan using sublingual immunotherapy to improve your vertigo symptoms.
Take our allergy assessment today to determine if Wyndly is right for you!