Feeling dizzy all the time? This could be happening to you
Common symptoms, causes and treatments of dizzy spells
Whether we’re woozy from illness, unsteady on our feet after a huge workout, or a little faint from the heat on a blistering summer’s day, a dizzy feeling can come on quickly and unexpectedly.
“Dizziness is a very common complaint among patients but can mean different things to different people,” explains GP Dr Amandeep Hansra. “Some use the term to describe feeling unsteady or lightheaded. Others use it to describe feeling like they might faint. Sometimes it is used to describe the feeling of the ‘room spinning’.”
Symptoms of dizziness range from feeling as if you’re off balance or experiencing a falling sensation to the sense that you or your surroundings are spinning. Along with dizziness, you may also experience other symptoms, such as headache, nausea and vomiting, ringing in your ears or difficulty hearing, staggering or loss of coordination, unusual eye movements or trouble seeing clearly.
The reasons for dizziness are varied and a dizzy spell could indicate anything from motion sickness to heat exhaustion, or, far less often, something more serious such as heart problems or a brain or nerve-related disorder. Even certain medications, including antidepressants, blood pressure and heart disease treatments, anti-anxiety drugs and epilepsy meds, can cause dizziness, so it’s important not to get too anxious if you’re suddenly feeling nauseous and dizzy.
“Dizziness can be caused by lots of different conditions including dehydration, a drop in your blood pressure, inner-ear problems, vertigo, stress/anxiety, low blood sugar, viruses, migraines and many other conditions,” says Amandeep.
Inner-ear issues (such as Meniere’s disease, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV, and vestibular neuritis) account for about half of all cases of persistent dizziness and vertigo.
Migraines are also a leading cause of dizzy spells, with about 40 per cent of migraine sufferers experiencing vertigo before, during, after or completely separate from a headache.
Are there any treatments?
If you find yourself feeling light-headed, for your own safety try to avoid sudden movements, driving or operating machinery and going up and down stairs. If it’s possible, lie down until the dizziness passes (however, if the room is spinning, do not lie completely flat), then when you get up, take it slowly – try to sit for a few minutes before standing up. Drink plenty of water, avoid coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs and don’t bend down suddenly.
The reasons for dizzy spells are varied, so treatment will depend on why you're having the sensation.
When should you see a doctor?
If you’re experiencing severe dizziness or it just won’t let up, it’s important to visit a professional.
“You should see your GP if you are worried about your dizziness, if it has come on suddenly, is severe or does not go away,” says Amandeep. “If it keeps recurring, this is also important to note and get checked out.”
As there are so many potential reasons for dizziness, your doctor will need to gather as much information as possible when assessing you.
“They may want to know when it happens, how long for, what makes it better and other symptoms you are also experiencing,” says Amandeep.
If your dizziness is accompanied by other worrying symptoms, such as difficulty hearing or ringing in the ears, double vision or blurred vision, numbness in your face, arms or legs, feeling nauseous, being sick or fainting, you should also make sure you see your GP.
For more information, check out our article I have a health concern, what do I do?
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
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Dr Amandeep Hansra
Dr Amandeep Hansra has been a GP for more than 17 years. A leader in digital health, she has a special interest in women's health, chronic disease and mental health. She loves traveling and has visited 87 countries, and is hoping to get to 100 in the next five years.