What is dizziness?
Dizziness is a general term used to describe a range of sensations, such as feeling faint, light-headed, weak, or unsteady. Dizziness can create a false sense of a person’s head spinning or spinning of the surroundings or swaying. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, headache, or difficulty walking. Vertigo differs from dizziness because vertigo is a true sensation of self-spinning or spinning of the surrounding. Dizziness on the other hand is less severe, with a feeling of imbalance or feeling “wonky.”
What are the symptoms of dizziness?
The common signs and symptoms of dizziness include:
- Feeling of fainting
- Loss of balance
- False sense of spinning
- Difficulty walking
- Nausea and vomiting
What causes dizziness?
The causes of dizziness include the following:
Disorders of the inner ear: The inner ear maintains the body balance by sending impulses to the brain about the head, neck, and body movements. The most common inner ear disorders causing dizziness include:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): BPPV usually has no specific trigger; it could because of trauma or sudden neck/head movements. In BPPV, canaliths (tiny calcium particles) get accumulated in canals of the inner ear.
Meniere's disease: It is an inner ear disorder in which the fluid accumulates in the inner ear and causes increased pressure. The cause may be genetic, allergies, or autoimmune. Patients typically present with vertigo, tinnitus (ringing sound in the ear), and hearing loss/aural fullness (feeling of fullness in the ear).
Labyrinthitis: It is inflammation of the nerves inside the inner ear. It can occur following viral or bacterial infections, including just a common cold.
Trauma: Trauma to the ear or skull fractures can damage the structures of the inner ear.
Motion sickness: Vertigo can be triggered while travelling, causing motion sickness. It is also commonly associated with nausea and vomiting.
Medications: Certain medications can cause inner ear damage.
- Lesions (tumors) in the brain
- Inflammation/infection of the brain
- Cervical spine disorders such as cervical spondylosis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alcohol intoxication
- Vertigo associated with migraine (migrainous vertigo)
- Trauma to the head and neck
- Low blood pressure
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Heart disease
What do you do when you feel dizzy?
The following is advised during an episode of dizziness:
- Sitting or lying down immediately and resting in a cool place till the symptoms resolve. This prevents the risk of losing balance, leading to a fall and serious injury. One may use a cane or walker or handrails for support.
- Avoiding sudden movements of the head and neck and suddenly changing positions can be helpful.
- Driving or doing any dangerous activities such as operating heavy machinery should be avoided.
- Drinking fluids and remaining hydrated can help improve dizziness.
- Eating something sweet can help when you feel dizzy due to low blood sugar.
- Tripping hazards such as rugs on the floor, low tables, etc. should be removed in the house to lower the risk of fall in those who have frequent episodes of dizziness.
- One may take over-the-counter anti-vertigo medications such as Antivert (meclizine) or antihistamines. Painkillers may be taken if there is associated headache.
How is dizziness treated?
Treatment for vertigo depends on the cause. In some cases, vertigo may resolve without any treatment and never recur due to the ability of the brain to adapt. In other cases, the treatment options include:
- Vestibular rehabilitation: This is a type of physical therapy, wherein the patient is taught certain exercises to help strengthen the inner ear system.
- Canalith repositioning maneuvers: These are specific maneuvers performed by a healthcare professional, where the movements are done to dislodge the calcium deposits out of the inner ear canal.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to suppress the inner ear or improve blood blow in the inner ear. Medications to relieve associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, or motion sickness may be administered. Antibiotics would be prescribed in cases of infection or inflammation. Steroids may be needed to suppress inflammation and reduce swelling. In Meniere's disease, diuretics (pills that reduce fluid in the ear) may be prescribed to reduce pressure due to fluid accumulation.
- Surgery: In severe cases, when the vertigo does not resolve with medication and other conservative measures, surgery may be required for vertigo.
How to prevent dizziness?
The following measures may help reduce the frequency and intensity of the episodes of vertigo:
- Doing activities that improve balance, such as vestibular rehabilitation exercises, yoga, or Tai Chi
- Adequate hydration by drinking at least eight glass of water a day
- Sleeping for least seven hours and avoiding stressful situations
- Eating a healthy diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins
- Reducing the salt content in food
- Taking medications as prescribed
- Managing psychological stress/anxiety
- Chinese Company May Help Ease U.S. Shortage of Cancer Drug
- Opdivo Could Boost Outcomes for People Battling Hodgkin Lymphoma
- More U.S. Kids, Teens Are Getting Weight-Loss Surgeries
- Could a Nitroglycerin Patch Ease Hot Flashes?
- One Form of Menopause Hormone Therapy Might Raise Blood Pressure
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Dizziness: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Related Articles
What Happens After Endolymphatic Sac Decompression Surgery?Endolymphatic sac decompression surgery is done to drain excess fluid from the inner ear. After this surgery, the operated ear is covered with a Glasscock dressing, which is a special dressing applied to keep the pressure on the site to reduce swelling. There is usually some tenderness and discomfort in the operated ear and throat (from the breathing tube inserted during surgery), which may be controlled by painkillers.
Balance SlideshowWhat is vertigo? What causes dizziness? Understand different balance disorders and symptoms such as vertigo, motion sickness, nausea, and more.
What Does Chest Pain on the Left Side Above a Female Breast Mean?Chest pain on the left side above a female breast can have a variety of causes. Learn the signs of chest pain on the left side, what may cause it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
DizzinessDizziness is a symptom that often applies to a variety of sensations including lightheadedness and vertigo. Causes of dizziness include low blood pressure, heart problems, anemia, dehydration, and other medical conditions. Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause.
How Do Doctors Evaluate Dizziness?Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness, fainting or a mild feeling of imbalance. Vertigo is the feeling that the stationary things around you are moving. Most dizzy spells are not serious.
How Do You Do the Epley Maneuver?This is a series of steps you can do at home to help reposition the canalith (bone-like pieces inside the ear canals) and help relieve dizziness or vertigo. Perform the Epley maneuver in six steps.
How Do You Know If Your Inner Ear Is Causing Dizziness?Dizziness and similar complications happen because of things that happen in your inner ear. You know if your inner ear is causing dizziness because when you have it, moving your head in any way causes immediate vertigo – the sensation that your physical surroundings are spinning.
Is Pseudotumor Cerebri Serious?Pseudotumor cerebri is a medical condition that causes increased pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure). This is due to increased fluid accumulation inside the skull. This fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced inside the brain cavities and lubricates the coverings of the brain.
Neck Pain and DizzinessNeck pain and dizziness are both symptoms that may result from several causes and risk factors. Check out the center below for more medical references on neck pain and dizziness, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
Vertigo QuizTake the quiz and find out the causes, symptoms, treatments, and ways to prevent the confusing balance disorder called vertigo.
What Can Trigger Vertigo?Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or rocking, even when someone is at rest. Vertigo may be caused by a problem in the brain or spinal cord or a problem within in the inner ear. Head injuries, certain medications, and female gender are associated with a higher risk of vertigo. Medical history, a physical exam, and sometimes an MRI or CT scan are required to diagnose vertigo. The treatment of vertigo may include medication, special exercises to reposition loose crystals in the inner ear, or exercises designed to help the patient re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Controlling risk factors for stroke (blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood glucose) may decrease the risk of developing vertigo.
What Causes Vertigo?Vertigo is a symptom that is characterized by a false sensation of spinning of the head or of surrounding objects when they are not. Patients feel giddy or dizzy and lose balance. The causes of vertigo can be classified into peripheral and central.
What Does Electronystagmography Test For?Electronystagmography (ENG) is a test that evaluates involuntary (not under conscious control) movements of the eyes (nystagmus). It is generally advised if you have unexplained dizziness, vertigo or hearing loss.
What Is an Endolymphatic Shunt?An endolymphatic shunt is a surgical procedure that involves placing a small silicone tube in the inner ear to drain excess fluid. This procedure can reverse damage to the ear due to fluid buildup.