Merry-go-rounds ... amusement park rides ... wide-open fields just calling for you to spin in circles until you collapse. For most kids, creating the feeling of being dizzy is fun. But when dizziness strikes unexpectedly or occurs frequently it can be scary. That feeling of lightheadedness and unsteadiness can have numerous possible causes related to a wide range of issues from the inner ear to hypertension or high blood pressure. Dizziness can also be caused by motion sickness or a reaction to medication. Or it may be due to an underlying health condition such as infection, injury, stroke, or circulation issues. Balance involves a whole network within your body that includes the brain, inner ear, eyes, and nervous system, so getting to the root cause can be complicated. Knowing the symptoms and causes of dizziness can help you know how to respond.
What is Dizziness?
Feeling dizzy is a general term used to describe a variety of sensations. It may include lightheadedness or a loss of balance. It may describe a sense of constant spinning or a false sense of motion. Others may use the term to describe a sense of floating, or of feeling faint. Whatever the sensation, sometimes the feeling lasts only for a few seconds. Or it may be prolonged, lasting for days or returning repeatedly over a period of time.
Is it an Emergency?
Dizziness can interfere with your daily activities but it is not typically an indication of a severe medical condition. However, there are some warning signs to watch for. You should see your doctor right away if the feeling of dizziness is severe, comes on suddenly, is prolonged, or continues to recur. You should visit the closest hospital emergency department or call 911 if your dizziness is accompanied by chest pain, numbness in your arms or legs, or if you have a hard time breathing. Other symptoms that indicate that you should seek emergency medical care right away include sudden and severe headache, a stiff neck, vision problems, hearing loss, irregular heartbeat, low or high blood pressure, fainting, confusion, trouble speaking clearly, weakness of facial muscles, difficulty walking, vomiting, or seizures.
Dizziness of any kind also impacts your ability to do ordinary tasks. If you are feeling dizzy, don’t risk injury by walking, driving, or operating machinery or power tools. Get someone to help you, and wait until you recover or can get professional health care before continuing with your activities.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a type of dizziness that is marked by a feeling that you are spinning, or the false sense that your surroundings are spinning around you. The inner ear contains sensors that help detect motion, and send messages to the brain about body movement and balance. When something causes the inner ear to send false messages to the brain, you experience vertigo as your brain attempts to make sense of the messages.
What conditions cause vertigo? The most common are listed below.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): This is the most common cause of vertigo. BPPV is a fancy way of describing an intense but brief sense that you are moving or spinning. This takes place when tiny bits of calcium inside the system of canals in the inner ear break loose and trigger false movement signals to the brain. The sensation of vertigo is typically caused by a sudden movement of the head including sitting up or rolling over in bed. BPPV can also be caused by a blow to the head.
Migraine: Episodes of vertigo can occur in people who experience migraines, either at the same time as a migraine or when no migraine headache is present. Vertigo in these instances is usually associated with a sensitivity to noise and light, and the episode can be brief or last for hours.
Infection: A viral infection of the vestibular nerve can cause vertigo. The sensation is usually intense and is constant until the infection is resolved. A common complication is sudden hearing loss, which can indicate a condition called labyrinthitis.
Ménière’s Disease: Another condition that involves the inner ear, Ménière’s disease, involves the build-up of fluid in the inner ear. Hours-long episodes of vertigo can occur, often accompanied by ringing in the ear, hearing loss, and the feeling that the ear is plugged.
Do Circulation Problems Cause Dizziness?
Yes, blood circulation issues are a common cause of dizziness since the brain needs to receive a steady flow of oxygen-rich blood. Low blood flow to the brain can be caused by a variety of conditions including heart attack, blood clots, and irregular heartbeat. A sudden drop in systolic blood pressure is called orthostatic hypotension and can cause light-headedness when the body doesn’t adjust quickly after sitting up or getting out of bed. Anyone who experiences heart-related symptoms including dizziness, chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, and nausea should call 911.
Other Causes of Dizziness
There are many other reasons you may experience dizzy spells. And, while most of the time dizziness goes away on its own, it can be an indication of a more serious condition.
Aging: A decline in various systems throughout the body as we age can have an impact on the frequency and intensity of dizziness. Age can also make you more likely to be taking medication that could increase dizziness. Age-related menopause, dementia, and neuropathy can also complicate health and cause dizziness to occur.
Medications: Dizziness is a common side effect for many medications including pain relievers, some antibiotics, antidepressants, diuretics, blood pressure medication, and more. Be sure to consult the medication information as well as your doctor if you experience dizziness while taking medication.
Psychiatric Conditions: Anxiety, stress, panic attacks, depression can all create physical symptoms—even when the person hasn’t been diagnosed or isn’t aware of an underlying mental health issue.
Metabolic Disorders: Low levels of essentials in the body can cause dizzy spells, including low fluids (dehydration), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia including an insulin reaction in diabetes), and low blood oxygen (hypoxia).
Brain Conditions: Tumors, headaches, migraines, and dementia can impact the brain and nervous system and cause brief or prolonged dizziness. Stroke is also a cause of dizziness and will most often be accompanied by other symptoms including numbness, facial weakness, confusion, and difficulty seeing or walking. Anyone with these symptoms should seek immediate emergency medical care.
Other Causes: Allergies, dehydration, anemia (low iron), endocrine disease of thyroid or adrenal glands, internal bleeding, and long-term bed rest are all additional possible causes of dizziness.
How is Dizziness Treated?
The feeling of dizziness on its own rarely requires treatment. However, diagnosing and treating the underlying cause is important and can be as varied as the causes of dizziness. Your doctor will assess your symptoms, review your overall health history, run tests, and provide treatment options based on the specifics of your situation. Ensuring rest, healthy foods, and plenty of fluids for hydration are all important for anyone in the midst of or recovering from dizziness.
If you are experiencing episodes of dizziness or have concerns about your overall health, the doctors and staff at all of TrustCare’s locations are here to help you feel better. We have several urgent care clinics in the Jackson metro area and Hattiesburg and a Heart Clinic in Ridgeland to serve you. You can visit our urgent care clinics on a walk-in basis where our attentive staff will quickly assist you to help you Feel Better Faster™.