Dizziness is a common problem and usually isn’t serious.
During a spell of dizziness, you may feel as though you’re spinning or moving when you’re not (that’s called vertigo). You may also feel:
- Lightheaded or faint
- Unsteady on your feet
- Woozy, as though your head is heavy or floating
Dizzy spells are different from the sudden onset of dizziness, which could be a sign of stroke. Go to the ER immediately.
Tips for Handling a Dizzy Spell
If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down at once. This will lower your chance of falling down. If you have vertigo, it may help to lie down in a dark, quiet place with your eyes closed.
Drinking water may also give you fast relief, especially if you’re dizzy because you’re dehydrated.
If you’ve had a series of dizzy spells, there are things you can do to make yourself safer. Here are some of them:
- Remove tripping hazards in your home, such as rugs on the floor, so that you’re less likely to fall.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, which can make symptoms worse.
- Drink enough fluids and get plenty of sleep.
- Be aware of things that trigger your dizziness, such as lights, noise, and fast movement, and try to be around them less or move more slowly.
When Should I Call a Doctor?
If you’ve had many bouts of dizziness or spells that last a long time, make an appointment with your doctor.
You should seek help immediately if you’re dizzy and also have:
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Sudden change in your vision or hearing, or trouble speaking
- Numbness or weakness
- A head injury
- High fever
- Stiffness in your neck
What Are the Causes?
Keeping you upright and balanced is not an easy job for the brain. It needs input from several systems to do that.
Your doctor may ask you some questions to help narrow down the cause of your problem: What were you doing before your dizziness? What did you feel like during your spell? How long did it last?
Your dizziness might be the result of a circulatory problem. These can include:
- A sudden drop in blood pressure. This can happen after you sit up or stand too quickly. You might hear your doctor or nurse call this “orthostatic hypotension.”
- Poor blood circulation. This could be the result of an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. It could also be a brief disruption of the blood flow to your brain; that’s called a “transient ischemic attack," or stroke.
Issues with your inner ear can also cause dizziness. Among them are:
- Meniere’s syndrome. This usually affects only one ear. Symptoms other than dizziness may include ringing in your ear, muffled hearing, nausea or vomiting.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This is a spinning sensation brought on by moving your head.
- Ear infection. That can cause dizziness. Also, you could have something trapped in your ear canal.
Some other causes of dizziness include:
- Medicines, such as antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, tranquilizers and sedatives. If you take medication for high blood pressure, it might lower your blood pressure too much, leaving you feeling faint.
- Anxiety disorders. These include panic attacks.
- Low iron levels in your blood. This is also called anemia. Other signs that you are anemic include fatigue, pale skin and weakness.
- Low blood sugar. This is also called hypoglycemia. This may be a problem if you are diabetic and use insulin. Other symptoms include sweating and anxiety.
Who Is More Likely To Get Dizzy?
The older you are, the greater your chance for problems with dizziness. As you age, you’re also more likely to take medications that have it as a possible side effect.
If you’ve had a dizzy spell in the past, your odds of having a problem again are increased.
The most serious complication with dizziness is falling. It may also be unsafe for you to drive or perform other tasks. If your dizziness is caused by an underlying health problem, you may face other problems if that condition goes untreated.