Feeling dizzy is an incredibly common sensation. While there are different types of dizziness, the general definition is that dizziness is a feeling of disorientation, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness. Dizziness affects your sense of balance and can increase your risk of falling.
Dizziness can mean different things to different people and can be caused by multiple reasons or situations.
Dizziness is not a disease or condition in its own right, but rather a symptom of another issue affecting someone.
Dizziness often goes away over time. In some cases, however, dizziness will not resolve on its own. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to treat it.
Some possible causes of dizziness include:
- motion sickness
- head injuries
- certain illnesses such as the common cold
- certain conditions, such as anemia, migraines, or anxiety
- taking certain medications
- inner ear problems
- circulation problems
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar is one of the top five reasons why you might feel woozy. Drinking or eating can help counteract this.
When your blood sugar is low, every system in your body goes on reserve to use as little energy as possible. Even your brain is trying to conserve energy, which is the reason you may feel lightheaded or confused.
Side Effect of Medication
Dizziness can be a side effect of many different medications, including anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. Medications that lower blood pressure, in particular, may cause faintness if they lower it too much.
If you experience dizziness while on a medication, talk to your healthcare provider. They may decide that adjusting the dose or switching prescriptions may help alleviate this issue.
Being dehydrated—whether from being sick, overheated, or not drinking enough fluids—lowers the volume of your blood along with your blood pressure. When this occurs, it prevents your brain from getting enough blood, thus leading to a feeling of lightheadedness.
Drinking a glass of water may make you feel better right away. But if you have not had much to eat or drink in a few days, it may take some time to rehydrate your body.
Drug or Alcohol Use
Prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and alcohol can all lead to dizziness. Plus, the interaction between alcohol and drugs can be a problem, particularly for older adults. Make sure you are reading the labels of all prescription and nonprescription drugs to determine if you should avoid alcohol while taking them.
Additionally, alcohol or drug intoxication, as well as withdrawal from each (including nicotine), can also cause dizziness. In fact, alcohol use can become a serious issue, so make sure you drink in moderation. The USDA indicates that men should not drink more than 2 drinks in a day and women should not have more than 1 drink in a day.
Inner Ear Problems
Your sense of balance is developed through inputs from your eyes, your sensory nerves, and your inner ear. Your inner ear has sensors that detect gravity and back-and-forth motion, both of which feel out of sorts when experiencing vertigo.
Inner ear problems can be caused by an infection, Meniere’s disease, migraines, and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)—which is the most common cause of vertigo. Mild ear infections, and the dizziness that accompanies them, often clear up on their own, but if you have experienced severe or lengthy ear pain it is best to contact a doctor to diagnose the root of the problem and explore treatment options.
If your heart is not pumping enough blood to your brain it may cause you to feel dizzy or faint. This may occur due to a drop in blood pressure like when standing up too quickly, or due to poor blood circulation.
Circulation issues can be caused by conditions such as cardiomyopathy, heart attack, heart arrhythmia, and transient ischemic attack. While dizziness from changing position quickly is not a serious problem, other circulation problems are. If your dizziness is accompanied by any other symptoms related to the heart, seek treatment immediately.
Various Conditions and Disorders
Traumatic brain injury and migraines can lead to feelings of dizziness. Likewise, some neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, can also lead to progressive loss of balance. Even anxiety can cause lightheadedness, particularly panic attacks.
Along with these standalone factors, there are conditions or situations that contribute to an increased likelihood of experiencing dizziness. These include pregnancy, diabetes, menstruation, anemia, and even allergies—the last of which can be an indication of a serious anaphylactic reaction and requires immediate medical attention.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are commonly referred to as “flu-like” symptoms and include dizziness as well as headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Carbon monoxide poisoning is incredibly serious and can be fatal.
If you believe your dizziness is caused by carbon monoxide poisoning or if you smell gas in your home, call 911 and leave the area immediately. You will likely need immediate medical attention.
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Home Remedies to Treat DizzinessThere are medications, therapies, and surgical treatments for dizziness, depending on the severity of the episodes and the underlying cause. If you are not suffering from a serious issue of which dizziness is a symptom, there are simple home remedies that can help prevent dizziness.
Ginger has long been used as a combattant for motion sickness and nausea. While research has not completely explained why ginger can counteract dizziness, it is suggested that it prevents the development of gastric dysrhythmias and the elevation of plasma vasopressin, which leads to nausea associated with motion sickness.
Ginger can be consumed in many different forms. From ginger tea and supplements to ginger chews and more, there are a lot of different options to experiment with.
Take Ginkgo Biloba Extract
Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese herb known as a natural remedy for many maladies, including resolving the symptoms of vertigo. Most ginkgo products are made with an extract derived from the leaves of the maidenhair tree.
Ginkgo biloba treats vertigo by managing blood flow to the brain, which relieves dizziness and balance issues. One study concluded that using ginkgo biloba to treat vertigo was just as effective as betahistine, a medicine prescribed for balance disorders like vertigo. Betahistine is the world’s most-prescribed medication for vertiginous syndromes.
Avoid Hot Baths and Showers
If you are prone to dizzy spells, avoiding prolonged time spent in hot water can help avoid them. Low blood pressure and an overworked heart can lead to feelings of light-headedness and dizziness. Limiting the time spent in hot showers and baths can eliminate this cause of dizziness.
High temperatures cause your blood vessels to dilate, which lowers blood pressure. What’s more, the hot water causes the volume of blood your heart pumps to rise. This increased blood volume causes the heart’s workload to increase.
Practice At-Home Maneuvers
Because dizziness can lead to loss of balance, practicing balance exercises such as tai chi or yoga can help you improve balance and keep symptoms, particularly of vertigo, in control. If you experience vertigo caused by BPPV, you can follow the Epley or Semont-Toupet maneuvers—exercises that help shift the calcium crystals in your inner ear back to their correct positions.
Most experts recommend performing these maneuvers with a healthcare provider but an adapted exercise can be done safely at home. Some researchers recommend restricting movement following these maneuvers, including minimizing head movement, lying in bed with at least three pillows, not lying on the side, and avoiding cervical extension or rotation.
Another option is to practice regulating your breathing. Pick a spot to hold your gaze steady—instead of allowing your eyes to jump around which can lead to feelings of disorientation— and practice breathing. You want to make sure you don’t hold your breath.
To steer clear of dizziness caused by exercising, stay hydrated. Hydration—specifically drinking water before eating—is also very important in older adults who have postprandial hypotension, which means an excessive decrease in blood pressure that occurs after a meal.
It often results in dizziness, lightheadedness, and even falls. Research has shown that drinking water prior to eating, as well as eating small, low-carb meals frequently, helps manage these symptoms.
Strive for a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy diet can help combat dizziness, which includes drinking plenty of fluids. Limit your use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, as these substances can worsen the causes and symptoms of dizziness. Getting enough sleep and avoiding stress also helps prevent lightheadedness.
If you have diabetes or struggle with low blood sugar, focus on regulating your blood sugar. Some research indicates that drinking apple cider vinegar also may help regular blood sugar. If it seems that your dizziness is related to your food intake, consult a healthcare provider to ensure that you identify and manage any pre-existing conditions.
Take It Easy
If you do experience a dizzy spell, sit or lie down immediately and hydrate as soon as possible. Avoid activities that put you in a situation where an accident or fall could be likely.
You want to avoid driving, standing in high places, climbing a ladder, walking in the dark, or wearing high-heeled shoes—until you are certain the feeling has passed.
Living a healthy lifestyle can help treat and prevent dizziness.
Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Drink plenty of water. Get enough sleep.
You should also avoid salt, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent consumption of these substances can increase your symptoms.
When to see a doctor
Someone with dizziness that does not resolve on its own after at least a week should see a doctor immediately.
According to a paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, “The clinician’s first job is to sort out whether the dizzy patient is having attacks of vertigo, or attacks of some other paroxysmal symptom.”
Because dizziness is sometimes a symptom of a bigger issue, it is important for a doctor to diagnose the problem if the dizziness does not fade or become more manageable.
A doctor should be seen if the person experiences:
- persistent or severe headaches or migraines
- falling over regularly or a struggle when walking
- frequent or ongoing vomiting and nausea
- loss of consciousness
- shortness of breath or a struggle breathing
- any head injury
- a severely stiff neck
If the dizziness is ongoing, frequent or severe, a doctor should be seen immediately.
While experiencing the occasional brief period of dizziness is likely not a major concern, frequently recurring dizzy spells, instances lasting longer than 15 minutes, or those accompanied by other significant symptoms should be shared with a healthcare provider.
And, if you are considering trying any of these home remedies be sure to talk to a healthcare provider first. They can help you determine what is right for you. You also want to ensure that the remedy you select will not interfere with any medications you are taking.