Most people have experienced dizziness in some form or other. As kids, we loved to spin around, giggling as our heads swam and we tried not to fall. We liked the feeling of lightheadedness and disorientation, that physical condition of feeling woozy, weak or unsteady.
Unfortunately, that feeling isn’t as fun when you’re an adult trying to get through a day.
In and of itself, dizziness is not a disease. It is, however, a possible symptom of other severe health conditions. The good news is that most dizzy spells pass quickly, with no further incident or cause for alarm.
Dizziness is common in older adults and can lead to falls or other injuries, which makes the typically mild symptom far more dangerous as a life progresses.
There are two kinds of dizziness: lightheadedness and vertigo.
Lightheaded people report feeling faint and weak to the point of passing out. There may be nausea and vomiting, trouble walking or standing, loss of balance or falling.
Brief episodes of lightheadedness do not usually signal a more serious problem, and lying down will often make the feelings pass.
A sudden and momentary drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your head can produce the sensation of wooziness. Blood pressure being too low means that not enough oxygen-rich blood gets delivered to the brain, causing the afflicted to pass out (syncope).
With vertigo – like the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name – the world seems to spin, the room appears to move.
Benign positional vertigo (BPV) is short-term dizziness that happens after changing your body position quickly. Standing or sitting up too soon from a sitting or lying position can give you BPV. The occasional episode of BPV is probably nothing to worry about, especially if you know you changed positions too quickly.
Peace Health informs us:
“Vertigo occurs when there is the conflict between the signals sent to the brain by various balance- and position-sensing systems of the body.”
Repeated episodes of vertigo not only interfere with daily activities, but may also point to a problem with one of the four sensory systems the body uses to stay balanced and oriented situationally: vision, sensory nerves, skin pressure, and the balance centers of the inner ear.
Meniere’s Disease is the excessive buildup of fluid in the inner ear, characterized by sudden episodes of vertigo lasting as long as several hours. Other symptoms are fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear and the feeling of a plugged ear.
So what causes us to get dizzy in the first place? The answer might surprise you: all kinds of things.
Here is a list from eMedicine Health:
• Heart diseases (heart attack)
• Blood pressure problems
• Brain diseases or conditions (stroke, dementia, and migraines)
• Medications (blood pressure and pain medications, and antibiotics)
• Metabolic disorders (hypoglycemia and dehydration)
• Psychiatric conditions (anxiety, stress, and depression)
• Other illnesses (allergies, sinus infections)
What you eat and drink can bring relief from, or even help prevent dizziness. Stay hydrated – drink lots of water. Ginger is thought to counteract motion sickness. Vitamin C is helpful for folks with Meniere’s Disease. Vitamin E keeps blood vessels elastic, aiding blood flow. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) boosters include bananas, berries, fruit juice and honey.
Lifestyle changes can also reduce dizzy spells. Get plenty of good rest and meditate to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Go outside for a walk. Regular exercise increases blood flow throughout the body and improves the body’s ability to process oxygen efficiently.
The Mayo Clinic cautions to call 911 or seek emergency medical help if you experience dizziness with:
• A sudden or severe headache
• Ongoing vomiting
• A sudden change in speech, vision or hearing
• Stumbling or difficulty walking
• Chest pain or an irregular heart rate
• Numbness or weakness
• Shortness of breath
• A high fever
• A very stiff neck
• A head injury
To summarize, lightheadedness is often caused by the decreased blood supply to the brain, while vertigo is associated with disturbances of the inner ear and the balance centers of the brain. It is important that your healthcare provider understands the complaint (symptoms) you are experiencing.If you suspect that your dizzy spells are not normal, keep a log or mark your calendar to track them. Note the date, time, duration, and describe exactly how you felt. All these details help diagnosis.
Of course, another reason we feel dizzy is because we’ve fallen in love – another incurable, but treatable, condition.