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Dizziness: When to seek help?

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The sensation of feeling lightheaded, faint, unbalanced, or unsteady, is referred to as dizziness. Feeling dizzy or experiencing a dizzy spell does not necessarily indicate a serious medical condition, but it could be a symptom of more serious underlying disorders. Read on to find out more about this common symptom that affects most people at some point in the lives.

Types of dizziness

There are four types of dizziness:

  • Vertigo: Illusions of self and environmental motion
  • Disequilibrium: Loss of balance 
  • Presyncope: Sensation of a forthcoming loss of consciousness
  • Lightheadedness

Symptoms of dizziness

People experiencing dizziness may feel sensations such as:

  • The illusion of motion or spinning
  • Lightheadedness or faintness
  • Loss of equilibrium or balance 
  • Feeling floaty or head heavy

Normal activities like walking, standing up, or moving your head may trigger or aggravate these symptoms.

Nausea, vomiting, and suddenly fainting may accompany dizziness, requiring you to sit or lie down. Such episodes can last for a few seconds or even longer and may recur. 

You should get medical care immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden, acute headache
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty while breathing
  • Numbness or paralysis of the limbs
  • Fainting
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Irregular or rapid heart rate
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Difficulty when walking
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Sudden loss of hearing
  • Facial paralysis

Main causes of dizziness

Dizziness may be brought on by a number of factors and while usually not life-threatening, can have a major impact on your day to day activities. 

You may experience dizziness due to a variety of factors, such as inner ear disturbances, motion sickness, side effects of certain medication, or underlying health conditions, such as an infection, injury, trauma, or circulatory problems.

Noting the triggers, the nature and duration of the symptoms you experience while dizzy can help to determine the cause of dizziness.  

Some conditions that cause dizziness include: 

Vertigo

Vertigo is a condition that creates a false sense of your surrounding environment, resulting in the sensation of spinning or movement of either the individual or their surroundings, when they are in fact stationary. During an episode of vertigo, the signals sent to the brain by the inner ear aren’t consistent with the signals that the eyes and sensory nerves receive and vertigo occurs when the brain tries to solve this puzzle.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

This is the most common type of vertigo and it causes a strong and momentary sensation of spinning or movement that is usually brought on by sudden changes in head movement or a head injury.

Viral infection

Intense and constant vertigo can be caused by a viral infection of the vestibular nerves.

Meniere’s disease

In this disease, an excessive amount of fluid collects in the inner ears, causing sudden episodes of vertigo that lasts for extended periods. 

Migraine

People who experience migraines may develop vertigo or other types of dizziness that may last from a few minutes to hours.

Problems in blood circulations

Dizziness may occur if there is a sudden drop in blood pressure or a decrease in blood volume that may cause inadequate blood flow to the brain or inner ear.

Other possible causes 

  • Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis can lead to loss of balance.
  • Side effects of medications like antidepressants, sedatives, and blood pressure medications.
  • Panic attacks, certain anxiety disorders, and some phobias may cause dizziness.
  • Low iron levels i.e. anaemia
  • Individuals with low blood sugar who use insulin.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Dehydration 
  • Overheating or heatstroke
  • Motion sickness
  • Problems with vision
  • Head injury
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol

Treatments for dizziness

Treatments include home remedies, medication, or surgical intervention. The following are some examples of these treatments:  

  • Performing a series of simple moves called the canalith repositioning procedure that can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Complications due to Meniere’s disease can be treated by making wholesome lifestyle changes like consuming a diet low in salt, restricting the use of caffeine and alcohol, and quitting smoking. Ear surgery or the use of anti-nausea and anti-vertigo medications can also help control the episodes of dizziness.
  • Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs, or steroids. 
  • Identifying and avoiding migraine triggers.
  • Rehydrating when dizziness is caused by excessive heat or dehydration.

Prevention

The following are recommended ways to lead a healthier lifestyle which may help to reduce and prevent the risk of dizziness:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Avoiding or restricting alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • Staying hydrated

Recommend to avoid the following activities if you suffer from episodes of dizziness:

  • Driving a car
  • Climbing a ladder
  • Walking in the dark
  • Medications that cause dizziness
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes
  • Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • Switching or moving positions suddenly

The following recommendations may also reduce your risk of falling:

  • Use handrails for support when walking up or down stairs.
  • When changing or turning positions take your time and hold onto something for support.
  • Install hand grips in baths and showers.
  • Improve your balance by practicing yoga or other exercises.
  • Using a cane or walker for support.
  • Sitting or lying down immediately when you feel dizzy and resting until the dizziness subsides.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle to decrease the risk of dizziness.
  • In case of overheating or dehydration, resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.

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