Dizziness symptoms, causes and treatment

Dizziness can be a term to describe a variety of different sensations such as feeling woozy, or fainting, feeling weak, or having some kind of imbalance. Having this kind of experience rarely means that you have a life-threatening medical condition. Still, as anything that happens quite frequently or is persistent, or in this case, if other symptoms accompany the dizziness, then a visit to your physician would be necessary.

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Other symptoms that should signal a trip to the doctor would include vomiting, fainting, double vision or blurring of sight, and having trouble using your arms and legs. When presented with these symptoms, along with dizziness, the doctor’s goal would initially be to find the reason for what is exactly causing the dizziness. 

If, for example, a patient with presyncope or syncope, a possible cause may be related to cardiovascular concerns. Or, if a patient is experiencing a sensation of spinning or whirling, a potential problem may be due to the inner ear or on one side of the vestibular nerve.

One of the more common types of dizziness is called vertigo, which is a condition that makes an individual create a false sense that he or she is spinning, or if not, his or her surrounding is moving.

Without other accompanying allergic symptoms, and if the dizziness goes away after a few seconds or minutes, then there should be nothing to worry about as it usually gets better on its own without necessary treatment. If it is just normal dizziness, the body simply adapts to whatever the cause is.  

Though not a type of condition that we need to be concerned about, dizziness is one of the main reasons why adults come to see their physicians.  

About 5 to 10% of the population experiences some kind of imbalance, vertigo, and dizziness, but as the person reaches 40 years old and up, the percentage goes up to about 40% incidence rate.  

Causes of Dizziness

Being dizzy is caused by several different factors or conditions, and how you are feeling and what is causing its trigger can lead to finding out the potential reasons or causes for the dizziness.  

Common Causes:

  • The side effect of certain medications
  • Alcohol
  • Migraine

Other causes may be:

Underlying medical conditions such as:

  • Injury
  • Poor circulation
  • Infection

If the reason is due to vertigo, it could be an effect of any of these conditions:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is the known most common cause of dizziness and usually happens because of a rapid change in the head movement. When BPPV occurs, it is often brief but intense.
  • Viral infection in the vestibular nerve also causes constant and intense vertigo
  • Meniere’s disease makes a person experience sudden dizziness that lasts for several hours. This type of disease involves an excessive build-up of fluid in the inner ear.

Dizziness may also occur because of circulation problems. If there is a lack of blood that is pumping to the brain or the inner ear, it could lead to dizziness or vertigo. A drop in the blood pressure may cause lightheadedness or feeling of fainting as well.

Poor blood circulation could result in:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart attacks
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Heart arrhythmia

Vertigo can also happen as a reaction to some neurological conditions such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

These neurological conditions may lead to progressive imbalance or loss of balance.

Another cause of dizziness may be due to some types of medications like the following:

  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sedatives
  • Other medicines that are meant for lowering the blood pressure

Anxiety disorders may cause dizziness as well, and some of these are:

  • Panic attacks
  • Fear of being in large and open spaces
  • Fear of leaving home

Diagnosis and Treatment for Dizziness

Even if dizziness does not signal something alarming, but when it starts to occur more frequently and more constant and accompanied by fainting, and other kinds of symptoms, then it would be time to check with your doctor. This is to simply ensure that the symptoms you are having are not because of a more serious underlying medical concerns; and also so that the doctor can determine whether you need to be prescribed with a medication or treatment.

When you go for a check-up, you must expect these things:

  • The doctor will ask you about the symptoms that you are experiencing, and if you are taking any medication.
  • You might be asked to undergo some physical examinations
  • Your doctor might ask you to do some blood tests to check for infections, or may ask you to have other tests such as hearing or balance tests.
  • The status of your heart and blood vessels may also be checked.

When a patient is older, has suffered a blow to the head or had a stroke, the doctor will most likely request for:

  • MRI
  • CT Scan

For balance and hearing tests, these procedures may be done:

  • Head movement testing
  • Posturography
  • Notary chair testing
  • Eye movement testing

For the physical examination, you may expect the following:

  • The examiner may check how you walk and keep your balance
  • He or she may also check how the major nerves in your central nervous system are functioning.
  • Expect the doctor to ask you about what triggers the dizziness, when and how often it occurs, and its severity.
  • You will also be asked if you are experiencing some common symptoms such as lightheadedness, a false sense of spinning, feeling of floating, feeling of fainting, loss of balance, and unsteadiness.

After necessary medical tests have been done, and the cause is revealed would be the only time that the doctor will be able to tell you the proper treatment, or if a specific medication needs to be taken.

Sometimes though, if no cause found, but if the dizziness continues to persist, prescription drugs may be prescribed to make the condition tolerable.

If medications are needed, these may be prescribed:

  • Preventive medicine for migraine
  • Anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax or Valium
  • Medicines that relieve dizziness and nausea
  • Diuretics or water pills combined with low- salt diet.

Other times, some forms of therapy may be advised:

  • Balance exercises
  • Psychotherapy
  • Head position maneuvers with a technique called canalith repositioning

For severe cases, surgical or other procedures may be necessary:

  • Labyrinthectomy, though very rarely used as this involves the removal of the inner ear sense organ. This procedure is used only for very severe hearing loss, and if the patient does not respond to any other treatment for dizziness.
  • Injecting the inner ear with antibiotic gentamicin, a procedure used to disable the balance function.

There are some ways to prevent dizziness as well, such as:

  • Resting in a cool place
  • Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration caused by heat or excessive exercise
  • Eating healthy food like fruits and veggies and other lean proteins
  • Using handrails when walking up or going down the stairs.
  • The moment you start to feel dizzy, sit or lie down immediately until it goes away
  • Do Yoga or Tai Chi or other exercises and activities that will help improve your balance
  • Avoid making sudden changes in your position
  • If dizziness is constant or frequent, avoid driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery.
  • Drink less or avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.

Normal Conditions 

If you only have the usual and regular dizziness, the conditions should be:

  • Lightheadedness that should go away for only a few seconds up to a minute maximum
  • For mild vertigo, it should persist no longer than 1 to 2 weeks.

On the other hand, if you are not experiencing dizziness, then:

  • You do not have any underlying medical concern
  • You have a generally healthy disposition as you do not feel vertigo, imbalance, lightheadedness or feeling of fainting or floating

Risks of Having Dizziness

The significant risk that could happen when a person is experiencing dizziness is falling because it could cause further injuries that could lead to a more severe condition.  

And there could be further complications if there is the presence of other symptoms such as the loss of balance or fainting.

It could also pose some danger when the person becomes dizzy while operating heavy machinery or when driving a vehicle. So once the operator or the driver feels dizzy, he or she must stop doing the activity immediately and look for a safe place to rest until the dizziness goes away.

When to Seek Medical Help

Some signs to watch out for to seek medical help:

  • If dizziness is severe, prolonged, unexplained, sudden or recurrent or a combination of any of these
  • If there is a head injury, high fever, stiff neck or shortness of breath
  • If the person is experiencing blurred vision, tingling, droopiness of the eye or mouth or loss of consciousness
  • If the patient has heart disease, it is over 50 years old or has a history of fainting that is related to dizziness.

Emergency care must be sought if dizziness is accompanied by:

Table of Medications

  • meclizine
  • Antivert
  • Phenergan
  • Bonine
  • promethazine
  • Dramamine II
  • Dramamine Less Drowsy
  • Promethegan
  • Meclicot
  • Meni-D