Q: Why am I dizzy?
A: We receive this question often. Dizziness is a very common symptom that can spontaneously occur and resolve without any underlying conditions. When there is an underlying condition, it can be as simple as hunger or as serious as a stroke. This is why looking up your symptoms online can lead to a heap of unnecessary anxiety! Luckily, there are some additional symptoms to watch for when determining what’s really going on. These are the most common causes of dizziness:
According to Johns Hopkins, 85% of dizziness and vertigo episodes are caused by physiological dysfunction within the inner ear. This typically occurs because there has been an unexpected shift in the fluid of the semicircular canals above the cochlea, making you feel off-balance or as if you’re in motion. One major clue that you’re dealing with a vestibular disorder is if your dizziness is accompanied by hearing loss or ringing in the ears. Fortunately, these disorders are highly treatable. Audiologists and ENTs can run a battery of tests to determine the exact cause of your dizziness and provide an effective treatment plan, so don’t hesitate to get it checked out.
Whether you’re taking medications to lower your blood sugar or simply haven’t eaten for a while, a dip in glucose can make you feel surprisingly weak and lightheaded. Hypoglycemia is defined as any blood sugar reading under 70 mg/dl, but many people experience dizziness at levels above that, depending on how their bodies respond to hunger. If your dizziness resolves after having a snack, that’s a good indication that you were low on energy and needed a boost. Patients living with diabetes should pay special attention to their dizziness, as medication adjustments may be needed.
Similar to the previous item on this list, dizziness is one of the top symptoms of low blood pressure. This too can be caused by medication, though dehydration is the likelier culprit. When the body loses too many fluids, blood volume decreases, leading to hypotension. Many people also experience a drop in blood pressure after suddenly changing positions or spending long periods of time on their feet. This condition is known as orthostatic hypotension and is usually mild. Replenishing your fluids and resting in a comfortable position should help.
A keyed-up nervous system can cause pretty severe dizziness and disorientation. It’s even possible to experience fainting spells during an anxiety attack. This may happen because of a frightening event, post-traumatic stress, or an accidental triggering of the body’s fight-or-flight response. Rest assured that many, many people live with chronic anxiety. However, if you suspect your dizziness is the result of emotional distress, it’s important to rule out other causes first. Be sure to discuss testing and treatment options with your physician.
Q: When should I tell a doctor about my dizziness?
A: As soon as you feel it’s more than a passing annoyance. While dizziness is one of the most common patient complaints and is usually nothing to worry about, it can lead to falls. The older you are, the more dangerous falls become, so take dizziness seriously if it occurs often or disrupts your daily life. The bottom line is: You know your body better than anyone else. When in doubt, seeking a professional opinion is never a bad idea. Always get immediate medical attention if your dizziness is severe or accompanied by any of these signs of a stroke or heart attack:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Numbness or tingling
- Impaired mobility
- Sudden confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Did You Know?
• Dizziness is the third most common complaint (after headaches and lower back pain) in all age groups.
• Dizziness is the number-one complaint from people who are 70 and older.
• 85% of dizziness & vertigo is caused by inner-ear dysfunction.
• 25% of migraine sufferers report vertigo as a symptom.
• Most patients visit 4 to 5 physicians before a correct diagnosis is made.
• Falls are the leading cause of death for people who are 65 and older.
If you’re suffering from dizziness or think you may be experiencing a vestibular disorder, please don’t wait. Contact us today to get your questions answered or to schedule an exam. We’re HEAR to help!