What Causes Dizziness and Where Can I Get Help?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
If you have occasional dizzy spells, it may be due to common external factors or deeper internal issues.
What Is Dizziness?
If you’ve ever been on a fast-spinning carnival or amusement park ride, you’ve probably experienced a dizzy spell. Dizziness can result from an impairment of your spatial orientation. Also referred to as lightheadedness, dizziness can disrupt your sense of balance, which increases the risk of falling.
Dizziness may leave you feeling:
Feeling dizzy is a common experience. Dizzy spells can happen at any time, regardless of whether you’re standing, sitting, or in motion.
Unfortunately, dizzy spells tend to occur more frequently the older we get.
Dizziness and Blood Flow
Dizziness may be the result of low blood flow. Potential signs of poor blood flow are:
- muscle cramps
- digestive issues
- coldness in the hands or feet
If you have heart health issues (including irregular heartbeat), clogged arteries, interrupted sleep, low libido, elevated blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, blood clots, or are overweight, you likely have blood flow issues.
Standing up quickly may cause a drop in blood pressure and create dizziness. This is especially true for older individuals.
Dizziness or Vertigo?
Some people confuse dizziness with vertigo. Though some of their symptoms overlap, vertigo is a more severe form of dizziness that can make you feel like the room is spinning around you. The effect may get worse if you move your head.
Vertigo may be caused by an inner ear issue or a problem with the part of the brainstem that deals with balance. It also may last for a longer period than a dizzy spell and develop into a serious, long-term condition.
Experiencing vertigo may make it seem that you or objects around you are:
If you have intense vertigo, it can be dangerous to walk or drive.
Common Causes of Dizziness
Ever seen a movie or TV show where someone stumbles out of a saloon or bar? Yep, loss of motor control and dizziness often accompany excessive drinking or being drunk.
Alcohol’s impact on health is significant: though well known to harm the liver, it also damages the heart, lungs and pancreas, and is a carcinogen. It also can take a terrible toll on the brain; it decreases firing in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most involved with decision-making and good judgment.
Alcohol consumption can be a serious issue. To avoid dizziness, and the many other negative effects that can result from excessive drinking, it’s recommended to limit your intake of alcohol, or avoid it altogether.
Many people don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day. When someone is dehydrated, their blood pressure can drop. Also, their brain may not get enough oxygen, which can lead to dizziness and fainting.
Other common signs of dehydration are:
- extreme thirst
- dark urination/less frequent urination
- urinary/kidney issues
- poor concentration
- memory difficulties
- diminished school/work performance
- increased sensitivity to pain
Proper hydration can help increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain. It’s recommended that you drink plenty of water each day to keep your brain and body adequately hydrated.
While some people display warning signs immediately following a head injury, others don’t develop symptoms until weeks or even months later. Delaying treatment may lead to serious problems, both mentally and physically.
Here are some of the most common head injury symptoms of mild to moderate head traumas:
Cognitive changes – poor concentration, memory problems, learning issues, poor judgment and impulsivity, and difficulty putting thoughts into words.
Physical complaints – dizziness, fatigue, headaches, visual disturbances, trouble sleeping, sensitivity to light and sound, poor balance.
Psychosocial concerns – depressive or anxious thoughts, anger outbursts, irritability, personality changes.
Symptoms can last for hours, days, weeks, or longer. Ignoring your indicators and trying to “tough it out” with any brain injury can make symptoms worse.
The warmer months might be a challenge for some as walking outside or sitting in a hot house or car can produce feelings of fatigue and faintness. Some signs that your body is overheating are:
- muscle spasms
These symptoms might be intensified in pregnant or menopausal women.
If you’re taking a hike or doing another outdoor activity, always take more water than you think you need, especially on hot days or if you live in an arid region. Having extra water at the end of your activity is far better than running out and suffering from dehydration (see above), heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
Also, be sure to monitor how much sun you’re getting – too much exposure can lead to severe sunburn and serious skin conditions. To prevent these detrimental outcomes, always use sunscreen when spending significant time outside. For sufficient protection against damaging sun rays, it’s recommended to use SPF 30 or higher.
Several medications list dizziness as a possible side effect. These include:
- anti-seizure medications
- blood pressure medicines
Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medications.
Warning Signs of Dizziness
Though dizziness may occur from any of the reasons listed above, it also may be biologically motivated.
Many parts of your body, including your eyes, inner ear, brain, and spine, work together to create your equilibrium. When your sense of balance is thrown off, for whatever reason, it may result in feelings of dizziness.
Dizziness may lead to a fall, which can be detrimental to your brain and body. It could be trouble if you faint, fall, or can’t walk for any of these reasons:
- head injury
- shortness of breath
- irregular heart rate/chest pains
- high fever
- weakness/numbness in face or limbs
- sudden change in hearing, speech, vision
- severe headache
If you have any of these symptoms, or have had a fall from faintness or dizziness, it’s recommended for you to immediately…
As we’ve seen, there are many internal and external factors that can cause dizziness. It’s always best to document each incident and closely monitor any adverse aftereffects. Also, do your best to identify what caused the dizzy spell so that you can avoid that activity or stimuli in the future.
If you’re experiencing ongoing bouts of dizziness, or any of the other warning signs listed above, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with a healthcare practitioner or specialist to get help right away!
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