Dizziness

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What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness can range from a fleeting, momentary sensation to a severe loss of balance disorder that makes normal functioning impossible. Nearly half of all adults will have an episode of dizziness serious enough to send them to the doctor.

Dizziness generally refers to three specific sensations:

  • Faintness. One type of dizziness is described as feeling lightheaded, as if you might pass out.
  • Loss of balance. Another type of dizziness is characterized by feeling unsteady on your feet, as if you might fall.
  • Vertigo. With vertigo, you feel as if the world is spinning around you or that you yourself are spinning.

Describing your dizziness as precisely as possible will make it easier for your doctor to diagnose the cause and treat it.

Common causes of Dizziness

The most common causes of dizziness are outlined below.

  • Labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection that affects your hearing and balance, and can lead to a severe form of dizziness called vertigo.
  • Migraine – dizziness may come on before or after the headache, or even without the headache.
  • Stress or anxiety – particularly if you tend to hyperventilate (breathe abnormally quickly when resting).
  • Low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) – which is usually seen in people with diabetes.
  • Postural hypotension – a sudden fall in blood pressure when you suddenly sit or stand up, which goes away after lying down. This is more common in older people.
  • Dehydration or heat exhaustion – dehydration could be due to not drinking enough during exercise, or illness that causes vomiting, diarrhoea or fever.
  • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency – decreased blood flow in the back of the brain, which may be caused by the blood vessels that lead to the brain from the heart being blocked (known as atherosclerosis).

Home Treatment of Dizziness

Lightheadedness usually is not a cause for concern unless it is severe, does not go away, or occurs with other symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat or fainting. Lightheadedness can lead to falls and other injuries. Protect yourself from injury if you feel lightheaded:

  • Lie down for a minute or two. This will allow more blood to flow to your brain. After lying down, sit up slowly and remain sitting for 1 to 2 minutes before slowly standing up.
  • Rest. It is not unusual to develop lightheadedness during some viral illnesses, such as a cold or the flu. Resting will help prevent attacks of lightheadedness.
  • Do not drive a motor vehicle, operate equipment, or climb on a ladder while you are dizzy.
  • Do not use substances that can affect your circulation, including caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs.
  • Do not get dehydrated, which can cause or increase lightheadedness, when you have an illness that causes diarrhea, vomiting, or a fever. Drink more fluids, especially water. Other fluids are also helpful, such as fruit juice mixed to half-strength with water, rehydration drinks, weak tea with sugar, clear broth, and gelatin dessert. If you have another medical condition, such as kidney disease or heart disease, that limits the amount of fluids you are allowed to have, do not drink more than this amount without first talking to your doctor.

If you have vertigo:

  • Do not lie flat on your back. Prop yourself up slightly to relieve the spinning sensation.
  • Move slowly to avoid the risk of falling.

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