Dizziness is an ill-defined symptom perceived by many individuals. It is an imprecise term that relates to one’s orientation and sense of stability in a real world (3-dimensional) setting. The sensation of impending loss of consciousness (passing out aka presyncope) may be stated as dizziness.
The sensation that one’s surroundings are moving around them (vertigo) can be described as dizziness. To feel acute breathing problems can be stated as dizziness. To feel unsteady while standing or walking (disequilibrium) can be a complaint of dizziness. Hence, there are a myriad of causes associated with the perception of dizziness.
What Causes Dizziness?
Dizziness is not a disease. It is a symptom of other conditions like:
- Low blood pressure
- Heart dysfunction or rhythm abnormalities
- Neurological disorders (cerebellar disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes etc.)
- Anemia (acute blood loss)
- Allergies / allergic reactions to medications
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Tinnitus (inner ear/ vestibular disorders)
- Heat stroke
- Vision disorders
- Anxiety Disorders
- Head injuries (post-concussion syndrome)
It can also be due to:
- Motion sickness
- Stress (hyperventilation syndrome/anxiety neurosis)
- Excessive exercise with insensible loss of water thru the skin (evaporation)
- Hormonal changes in the body (thyroid, estrogen)
- A side effect from medications.
Signs and Symptoms Associated with Dizziness
Dizziness may be accompanied by symptoms like:
- A false sense of motion
- Vision changes
- Blind spots
- A slow or irregular pulse.
Treatment for Dizziness
Dizziness does not qualify as a medical condition unto itself, but as a symptom of some underlying cause. In most cases, dizziness generally resolves on its own without any medical intervention.
That said, there are still certain medications that can help relieve the disorienting symptoms by treating the underlying condition. Discussion with your healthcare provider will assist in defining the cause of your dizziness.
Thus, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment strategy for dizziness depending upon what may be causing it. Some of the potential options used for this purpose include:
- Canalith positioning procedures or Epley maneuver are exercises designed to reposition or remove inner ear ‘crystals’ which may be triggering dizziness episodes. This strategy entails moving the head in specific ways to dislodge crystals from the ear canals and is usually recommended for people with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
- If the light-headedness is stemming from conditions like Meniere’s disease ( vertigo associated with hearing loss) that cause a fluid retention in the inner ear, the doctor may write down a prescription for water pills or diuretics to drain out the excess fluid.
- Migraine prevention medication is often recommended for people suffering from dizziness with migraines or vertigo.
- Anti-anxiety meds help dampen the intensity and frequency of anxiety attacks and the resulting sensations of dizziness.
- Anticholinergic drugs or antihistamines, unlike most other prescription medications in this category, address the dizziness itself rather than any underlying condition.
- A vestibular physiotherapist may ask you to practice certain balancing exercises that are specially-designed to ‘retrain and rehabilitate’ the nervous system for keeping your dizziness under control. Balancing therapy is the way to go if inner ear problems lie at the base of your dizziness, and works by making your body less sensitive to movement.
- In cases where stress and anxiety are major contributing factors, counselling and cognitive behavior therapy may be deemed necessary for the management of dizziness.
Simple Ways to Deal with Dizziness at Home
If your dizziness is not recurring or frequent, you can try some natural home remedies to help the problem. However, if symptoms persist or occur more frequently, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for dizziness.
1. Slow Deep Breathing
Slow deep breathing is one of the best ways to deal with dizziness. It will help provide an adequate amount of oxygen to the brain, which in turn will relax the nervous system and reduce dizziness.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your abdomen, place the thumb of your other hand against one nostril and close your mouth.
- Inhale slowly through your open nostril and try to fill your belly with air.
- Hold the breath in, close both nostrils and purse your lips.
- After 2 to 3 seconds, exhale slowly and try to extract air from your belly.
- Repeat these steps 10 times.
- Then, sit quietly for 5 minutes and breathe normally to avoid getting dizzy again.
2. Drink Water
Dehydration is a common cause of dizziness. This can either be due to insufficient fluid intake over an extended period of time or failure to rehydrate your body during and after exercise when there is an excessive loss of fluids due to perspiration.
Dehydration can also result from vomiting or diarrhea that causes the body to expel substantial amounts of its fluids in a short period.
- As soon as you start feeling a bit woozy, try drinking a glass of water. To keep dehydration and dizziness at bay, drink around five eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
- You can also try fluid alternatives such as herbal teas with a little honey, a steaming bowl of soup or broth, or fruit juices (apple juice preferable over orange which is preferable over pineapple).
3. Eat Something
Dizziness can be caused by low blood sugar levels, especially in people with full-blown diabetes. Hunger, associated with periods of fasting, can make you more prone to dizziness. If dizziness strikes, try eating a healthful snack to help control the symptoms.
It may be a good idea to eat smaller but frequent meals throughout the day. This applies especially to those people who are prone to encountering dizziness when they go without food for long intervals between the three standard meals of the day.
- Eat a snack that is high in carbohydrates or sugar like a chocolate bar or a banana to pick up your energy and glucose levels instantly.
- Snack on fruits with a high-water content, and add them to yogurt if you want an additional protein boost.
- Eat a handful of roasted nuts like cashews, almonds or walnuts for a substantial snack.
4. Add Ginger to Your Diet
Ginger is a time-tested remedy for dizziness and nausea that often accompanies it. It stimulates blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body, which helps reduce the intensity of dizziness.
Chew on a small slice of fresh ginger root or suck on ginger candies to overcome dizziness.
- Sipping ginger ale or ginger tea a few times daily will help prevent dizziness.
- Another option is to take ginger supplements after consulting your doctor for the appropriate dosage and length of treatment.
5. A Mild Lemon Juice can Help
Another excellent remedy for dizziness is lemon. The vitamin C in lemon boosts the immune system and helps the body fight any underlying illness that might be triggering your dizziness.
Additionally, several other nutrients in lemon make it a natural energizing agent. It can quickly hydrate the body keeping you feeling energized and refreshed.
- Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon into a glass of water. Mix in honey or agave to taste.
- Squeeze lemon juice over fish, chicken, vegetables, and salads.
6. Indian Gooseberry can be Beneficial
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla, is a popular Ayurvedic remedy for dizziness. Amla is a rich source of vitamins A and C that boost your immunity, improve blood circulation, and help treat and prevent dizziness.
- Grind 2 amla fruits (de-seeded) into a paste.
- Mix in 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds and a cup of water.
- Let it sit overnight.
- The next morning, strain and drink the water.
- Repeat daily for a few days.
7. Trust the Healing Potential of Honey
Due to the natural sugars in honey, in dizziness associated with hypoglycemia, it can instantly boost your energy level and prevent dizziness. Moreover, honey can prevent low blood sugar, one of the common causes of dizziness.
Mix 2 teaspoons each of honey and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of cold or hot water. Drink it 2 times a day.
- Alternatively, mix 1 tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice in a glass of warm water.
- Another option is to mix 1 teaspoon each of honey and cinnamon powder and have it once daily in the morning for a few weeks.
8. Incorporate Ginkgo Biloba in Your Diet
The herb Ginkgo Biloba is another effective home cure for dizziness. It helps to improve blood flow to the brain to stop or prevent dizziness. Moreover, this herb helps in treating tinnitus, which can also cause dizziness.
This herb is readily available in the market in tablet, liquid extract, and dried leaf form. The standard dosage is 120 to 150 mg of Gingko Biloba extract, in 3 divided doses daily for a couple of months.
9. Sip on a Cup of Feverfew Tea
Another excellent herb to treat dizziness associated with migraines is feverfew. It works to provide symptomatic relief from the accompanying discomforts of headaches, nausea, and vomiting as well.
Feverfew improves blood circulation allowing for increased oxygen and nutrient supply throughout the body Avoid feverfew if you are pregnant.
- Eat a few fresh feverfew leaves when you feel dizzy to overcome the symptoms.
- Steep 1 teaspoon each of dried feverfew leaves and peppermint leaves in a cup of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain Drink this tea a few times daily for a few weeks.
- Alternatively, you can take feverfew supplements after consulting your doctor.
10. Eat Healthily
Eating a healthy diet can help stabilize your nervous system by eliminating many of the conditions that might contribute to dizziness. You can avoid lightheadedness related to anemia, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar by eating foods high in iron, vitamin A, folic acid and fiber.
Also, choose foods that are low in sugar and fat while being high in protein.
- Eat iron-rich foods like liver, tofu, spinach, almonds, dates, lentils, fortified cereals, and asparagus. You can opt to take an iron supplement, after consulting your doctor.
- Include foods rich in vitamin C in your diet, such as oranges, lemons, bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruit, and spinach. You can opt for vitamin C supplements after consulting your doctor.
- Also, eat foods rich in folic acid like green leafy vegetables, liver, sprouts, fortified cereals, peanuts, bananas, and broccoli.
- Avoid iron-blocking beverages like coffee, beer, and wine.
Eat small meals several times a day and do not skip meals, especially breakfast.
Managing Dizziness at Home
The following tips can help you overcome bouts of lightheadedness or dizziness with relative ease:
- Dizziness may be your body’s way of telling you to take things slow. Continuing with the same activity load as usual might prove too much and make matters worse. So, it’s best to rest as much as possible until your physical and mental state returns to normal. Getting plenty of rest also helps your body recuperate faster from any underlying health condition that may be triggering feelings of dizziness. “This is especially true for exercise.”
- Often times, prolonged sleep deprivation due to a painful condition, over-medication, excessive caffeine intake, anxiety, stress or sleep disorders can leave your headspace totally muddled and give rise to the sensation of dizziness. Practicing adequate sleep hygiene can help you prep for a restful night of restorative sleep. To that end, make sure that your bedroom is clutter-free, pleasantly calm and cozy. Try not to engage in certain invigorating activities right before turning in which includes everything from spending time surfing the net, watching television or having heated discussions and debates too close to bedtime.
- Avoid abrupt changes in positions such as moving and standing up suddenly if you have had previous instances of dizziness. Since you are already in a slightly disorientated phase, slow and steady movements will help you avoid accidents and sudden falls. Take your time standing up after lying down, and hold onto something as you do. It may help to sit up gradually first and then stay sitting for a couple of minutes to allow your mind some time to adjust before standing upright.
- Sudden, abrupt or fast movements of the head while looking up or around too quickly can further aggravate your condition and must be avoided.
- When you feel like your head is spinning, going up and down a flight of stairs can be a daunting task and make you prone to accidents. Minimize the need to use stairs when you are in the midst of a light-headed spell, if at all. If you must, hold on to the railing for extra support and don’t be in a rush.
- Steer clear of using hand tools, driving or operating dangerous equipment or machinery while you feel dizzy to minimize the risk of hurting yourself or others.
- If you are experiencing an imbalance in your body’s equilibrium due to dizziness, lying down in a dark room may provide instant relief.
- Incorporate physical exercises in your daily life to improve blood circulation throughout your body and prevent dizziness. Discuss this with your physician first.
- Go for a full-body massage once a week may be helpful for those with stress or anxiety disorders.
- Practicing a bit of yoga and meditation regularly will help center your mind and body, and may prevent and relieve
- Avoid using caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco as these substances can worsen your condition.
- Acupuncture may also help alleviate the dizziness caused by migraines.
Make Sure It’s Not Stroke
If the dizziness is associated with:
- weakness in arms and/or legs, difficulty in limb use (walking or holding objects
- visual or speech difficulties
- loss or near loss of consciousness
- headaches with or without nausea and projectile vomiting
The consideration of an acute stroke should be of primary concern. Immediate physician interaction and intervention is imperative New treatment strategies for the acute treatment and management of neurological events (like strokes) unfortunately have a short window for the initiation of treatment (2-6 hours). Hence, act immediately when dizziness may suggest an acute stroke.
Dizziness or Vertigo?
It is easy to blur the lines between vertigo and dizziness, no pun intended. Both these conditions are characterized by feelings of disorientation and light-headedness, but are not considered diseases in their own right.
For all intents and purposes, dizziness is considered to be a generic term that figures as a potential symptom of someone suffering from vertigo. Vertigo, on the other hand, is a particular type of dizziness distinctly marked by a false sensation of movement. People experiencing vertigo usually feel that they, their surrounding environment, or both are spinning. On occasion, the person may even feel like their body is thrown off-balance and is pulled to one side. This can render you unable to walk properly, and make one increasingly prone to accidents, tripping and falling over.
People with vertigo may also experience an increased frequency and severity of nausea and vomiting. Although relatively rare, some people even have a rhythmic jerking movement of the eyes (nystagmus) during an episode of vertigo.
Thus, by and large, vertigo is considered to be a description of a sensation rather than a diagnosis.
When to See a Doctor
Since dizziness is generally symptomatic of larger health issue at the base, the doctor (at office, urgent care facility or an emergency facility) will first determine the root cause and then suggest the course of treatment accordingly.
Moreover, a visit to the doctor becomes imperative if:
- you’re worried about your dizziness or vertigo
- you experience persistent or recurrent episodes of dizziness
- you become hard of hearing
- you suffer a head injury on account of an accident
- your neck becomes severely stiff
- you become prone to frequent or prolonged nausea and vomiting
- you notice ringing or other sounds in your ears (tinnitus)
- you experience lapses in consciousness or fainting spells
- you struggle to walk straight and tend to fall over a lot
- you grapple with intense and persistent migraines or headaches
- you start running out of breath easily and have labored breathing in general
- your eyesight becomes compromised such that you encounter double vision or blurred vision
- your face, arms or legs begin to feel numb
- you are overcome by a general feeling of malaise or being unwell
- you have a seizure
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