What is going on with your head?
At some point or another, you have probably felt dizzy. This sensation of the room spinning or feeling unsteady can be unnerving. Often it is a hard feeling to describe. What causes it to occur? How do you make it go away? Can you do anything to prevent it?
Dizziness is a broad term that is used to describe a wide variety of sensations. Many people use it when they are feeling lightheaded, faint, unsteady, weak, woozy or lose their balance. It can also feel like you or your surroundings are moving or spinning when they actually aren’t (this is also known as vertigo). Sometimes, it can make you feel nauseous. Dizziness can occur when you are walking, standing up from a seated or lying position or moving your head a certain way or too quickly. It can come on suddenly and severely enough that you might need to lie down in order to avoid falling or passing out.
There are numerous reasons why you might feel dizzy. If something distorts your sense of balance, it can happen easily. Your sense of balance is based off of the input from your eyes, sensory nerves and sensors in your inner ear. The most common reason your sense of balance might be thrown off is that your inner ear is signals to your brain that different from the ones it is receiving from your eyes and sensory nerves. Your brain has to sort out the mixed signals, but while doing so, it can cause the feeling of vertigo. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common cause of vertigo and is brought on by rapid changes in head movement. Meniere’s disease also affects your inner ear, but is when you have excessive fluid buildup. Besides dizziness, most people suffer fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in your ears or feeling like your ears are plugged. Migraines can also cause vertigo episodes. Other than inner ear problems, you can become dizzy if you stand up to fast because this can cause your blood pressure to drop suddenly (also known as orthostatic hypotension). Certain medical conditions can cause dizziness, such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis causing balance issues, anxiety disorders, anemia affecting your body’s ability to get oxygen to your brain, low blood sugar means your body doesn’t have enough fuel to support brain function and dehydration means your body doesn’t have enough fluid volume to regulate bodily functions. It is important to know that some side effects of some medications can include dizziness.
Dizziness isn’t something that usually requires treatment. Typically, your body adjusts to whatever the cause is within a few weeks and you stop having episodes. If they are not getting better, see your doctor and they will help determine the cause, which dictates the best form of treatment. If you are having dizziness episodes, it is key to reduce the likelihood of falling. To do this, avoid moving suddenly and sit/lie down immediately if you feel dizzy. It can be helpful to walk with a cane for stability and to fall-proof your home by removing tripping hazards and making sure there is sufficient lighting. Be sure to drink enough water and eat healthy by limiting caffeine, alcohol and salt. Also, it is important to get adequate sleep, not smoke and avoid stress as much as possible. If your dizziness comes on without warning or you don’t know what can trigger it, then avoid operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. If you feel that your dizziness is the result of a medication that you are taking, then speak with your doctor about changing it. Please note that if you have dizziness and any other symptoms, such as sudden/severe headache, chest pain, difficulty breathing, fainting, double vision, rapid/irregular heartbeat, numbness/paralysis of your face, arms or legs, confusion, slurred speech, difficulty walking, seizures, vomiting that will not stop or sudden change in hearing, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
Until you know the cause of your dizziness, it can be difficult to prevent. Some basic steps you can make involve lifestyle changes. Drink enough water to remain hydrated. Eat healthy and limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol and salt in your diet. Be sure to get adequate amounts of sleep. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products since these can affect your blood pressure. Avoid stress as much as possible.
Not feeling in control of your body, like you experience when you are dizzy, is unsettling. It is essential to find out the cause of your dizziness in order to treat it and prevent it from reoccurring. Once you know this, you’ll more easily be able to manage it. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the Medline Plus’s Dizziness and Vertigo page at https://medlineplus.gov/dizzinessandvertigo.html