What Causes Dizziness? Its Symptoms, Control and Risk Factors

What is dizziness? What causes dizziness? What are its symptoms and risk factors? There can be plenty of questions like this which you may be looking for answers. So Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Dizziness is a term used to describe disorienting experience, in which a patient feels lightheadedness, fainting, instability, weakness or sleepiness. Dizziness problem can arise for several reasons. Your doctor will look at all your symptoms to find out what is the exact cause of dizziness and how to treat it.

What are the possible causes of dizziness?

Possible causes include:

  1. Abnormal blood pressure– Low or extremely high BP may cause dizziness or even fainting.
  2. Cardiac arrhythmias- If the heart beats too slowly or too quickly, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded. You may even faint.
  3. Stroke- If you experience a stroke, you may experience dizziness or lightheadedness as one of the symptoms. Other symptoms may include altered mental status or confusion, slurred speech, an altered gait or difficulty feeling or moving one side of the face or body.
  4. Emotions/hyperventilation- When you are very upset, you may find yourself breathing very rapidly and deeply. This can cause dizziness, as well as numbness and tingling in your face, hands, and feet.
  5. Standing up too quickly/prolonged standing- If you rise too quickly, your blood pressure may drop; likewise, if you stand in one position too long (as soldiers are sometimes forced to do), you may feel dizzy or faint.
  6. Medications- Numerous medications may make you dizzy, including sedatives, narcotics, tranquilizers, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and other.
  7. Dehydration- If you have been ill and have been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea for a prolonged period, you may feel weak and lightheaded, especially when upright due to low fluid volume and decreased blood pressure.
  8. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)- If you are diabetic and take your insulin without eating properly, or take your diabetes medications improperly, you may experience a rapid drop in blood glucose levels, which may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded.
  9. Inadequate oxygenation- If you are not getting enough oxygen due to heart disease, lung disease, or for another reason, you may feel dizzy and weak.
  10. Deconditioning- If you are in poor physical condition (i.e., due to prolonged illness) and attempt activity that is beyond what your body can handle, you may feel weak and dizzy.
  11. Acute blood loss- If you are bleeding internally or externally and lose enough blood, you will feel dizzy and lightheaded. Chronic blood loss may also cause you to feel weak and dizzy, but you may tolerate the blood loss for longer before experiencing symptoms if the loss is very slow over a prolonged period of time.
  12. Infection- If you have a viral, bacterial or other infection, it may cause you to feel dizzy and weak.
  13. Cancer- Many cancers will cause dizziness and weakness, which may be the presenting symptoms in some types of cancer (i.e., cancers affecting the blood)

What are the symptoms of dizziness?

Symptoms include:

  • A false sense of motion or spinning (vertigo)
  • Light-headedness or feeling faint
  • Unsteadiness or a loss of balance
  • A feeling of floating, or heavy-headedness

These feelings may be triggered or worsened by walking, standing up, or moving your head. Your dizziness may be accompanied by nausea or be so sudden or severe that you need to sit or lie down. The episode may last seconds or days and may recur.

What to do when you feel dizzy?

If you are feeling dizzy or light-headed, you may find the following advice helpful:

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Change positions slowly, especially when you’re standing up after lying down. Try to sit for a couple of minutes before standing up.
  • Avoid sudden, fast movements of the head, such as looking up or around too quickly.
  • Try to avoid going up or downstairs as you may fall and hurt yourself if you become dizzy while on the stairs. If you have to use stairs, hold on to the railing if there is one.
  • Avoid driving or operating dangerous equipment or machinery while you feel dizzy as this could be dangerous to yourself and others.
  • If you feel faint, try lying down flat. This will allow blood to reach your brain quickly.

When to seek medical attention?

Generally, see your doctor if you experience any recurrent, sudden, severe, or prolonged and unexplained dizziness. Get emergency medical care if you experience new, severe dizziness or vertigo along with any of the following:

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs
  • Fainting
  • Double vision
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Ongoing vomiting
  • Seizures
  • A sudden change in hearing
  • Facial numbness or weakness

What are the factors that may increase your risk of getting dizzy?

Certain risk factors might raise your chances. These include:

  • Being over age 50
  • Being a woman
  • Suffering a head injury
  • Taking certain drugs, especially antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • Having any medical condition that affects balance or your ears
  • Experiencing a previous episode of vertigo
  • Having a family member who has vertigo
  • Having an inner ear infection
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Drinking alcohol

Dr Chris Norris
Chris is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at The University of California. For over 10 years, he has served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders. His passion to further his reach pushed him to start SleepStandards.com. And to ensure quality output, he handpicked sleep experts to help him reach thousands more who are suffering from sleeping disorders.

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