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Last Updated: Jul 22, 2020
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Dizziness: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

About Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment Risk factors Side effects Post-treatment guidelines Complications Recovery Cost Results Alternatives

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is a term that is associated with the feeling of being woozy, unsteady, lightheaded or weak. The condition can sometimes result in fainting. Dizziness usually affects the eyes and ears.

The conditions that often lead to dizziness are disequilibrium and vertigo. Disequilibrium refers to the loss of balance. Vertigo is associated with spinning sensation. A person with vertigo may feel like the room is revolving.

Dizziness may also be associated with nausea or sometimes be so severe or sudden that you will need to lie down or just sit down somewhere. This episode usually lasts for seconds or even days and chances are it may recur.

Dizziness is rarely serious. Occasional dizziness usually resolves on it own. However, frequent bouts of dizziness can adversely impact the quality of life. Constant dizziness can also be an indicator of an underlying medical condition.

What are the symptoms of dizziness?

Dizziness is associated with certain symptoms. However, most of these symptoms vary depending on the underlying condition. Therefore, everyone with dizziness might not experience all those symptoms.

  • Lightheadedness
  • Spinning
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Double vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Headache
  • Weakness

What are the causes of dizziness?

Dizziness can be caused by multiple factors. Some of those are explained in detail below:

  • Vertigo: Vertigo is a condition that is characterised by a false or artificial sensation of spinning. A person experiencing vertigo may feel as if their surrounding environment is spinning or revolving. Vertigo is often caused by inner ear problems. These problems include:
    • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
    • Ménière’s disease
    • Labyrinthitis
  • Motion sickness: Being in a moving vehicle can cause disruptions in the working of the inner ear. This can sometimes lead to dizziness and nausea or vomiting. This condition is often referred to as "motion sickness". The condition generally revolves when the person starts walking on the normal ground.
  • Migraine: Migraine is a medical condition that is characterised by recurring headaches that cause intense pain on one side of the head. People with migraine are at increased risk of experiencing dizziness as the latter is one of the symptoms of migraine. Dizziness usually begins before the onset of the migraine pain.
  • Low blood pressure: Dizziness can result from a drastic or rapid decline in blood pressure. Sudden changes in blood pressure can be caused by low intake of water, loss of blood, pregnancy, or allergic reaction. Sitting or getting up can also result in a sudden fall in blood pressure.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Atherosclerosis is a medical condition that causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The condition affects cardiovascular health and functioning and may cause dizziness. Dizziness can also be a warning sign of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Low iron: People with anaemia can experience a feeling of dizziness. Anaemia is a condition in which the body doesn't possess enough oxygen-rich blood due to iron deficiency.
  • Hypoglycemia: A person may experience dizziness when there is a more than a normal decline in blood glucose levels. The condition in which the body has low levels of blood glucose is referred to as Hypoglycemia. It may be caused by poor or inadequate diet, excess alcohol consumption, hormonal imbalance or intake of certain medications such as aspirin.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Stress stimulates the brain to release certain hormones that cause blood vessels to contract, increase in heart rate, and shallow breathing. All these responses together result in dizziness or lightheadedness. Similarly, stressful situations may cause an anxiety attack which can in turn trigger dizziness.

How is dizziness diagnosed?

A doctor will first ask you a certain question about the symptoms you are experiencing and the medications you may be taking. Some of the questions about dizziness may include:

  • When does it occur?
  • How severe are the symptoms
  • Common situational settings

The physician may then ask you to undergo a physical test. The purpose of the test will be to check your balance and the response of the central nervous system's major nerves while you walk.

Some of the other tests that you might be asked to undergo include:

  • Hearing test
  • Eye movement test
  • Head movement test
  • Posturography
  • Rotary chair testing

In addition to all these tests, the physician may also ask to get a blood test or other examinations to determine the state of your heart health. People suspected of having had a stroke or individuals who have suffered a hit on the head may be asked to undergo an MRI or CT scan immediately.

How is dizziness treated?

Dizziness usually resolves on its own without requiring any medical treatment. The body adapts itself to the factors that may be contributing to the feeling of dizziness. Dizziness caused by factors such as excessive exercise, heat, or dehydration can be self-managed by increasing intake of water and other hydrating fluids.

However, if frequent spells of dizziness occur due to an underlying medication condition, treatment might become necessary. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment for dizziness may include the following:

  • People with Inner-ear issues may be prescribed certain medications and at-home exercises that can help restore balance.
  • If the cause of dizziness is benign positional vertigo (BPV), a physician may perform head position manoeuvres (also referred to as canalith repositioning or Epley manoeuvre)
  • For people with Meniere’s disease, a water pill (diuretic) may be prescribed along with a low sodium diet
  • If the cause of dizziness is migraine, then certain medications and lifestyle changes may be prescribed to identify and avoid the triggers of migraine attacks
  • For dizziness induced by anxiety, medications such as Diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) may be prescribed. Anticholinergics like scopolamine skin patches (Transderm Scop) also reduce dizziness.
  • For certain conditions (involving inner ear) causing dizziness, administration of injection (gentamicin) and surgical removal (labyrinthectomy) can be considered.
  • Meclizine (Antivert) is a part of antihistamines which offer a short-term relief from vertigo.
  • Therapeutic measures like balance therapy makes you learn certain exercises to make your body’s balance system less sensitive to spinning or motion. This physical therapy is known as vestibular rehabilitation. It is usually used for those with vestibular neuritis condition of the inner ear which causes dizziness.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

A person is eligible for treatment of dizziness if he/she experiences some or all of the symptoms associated with it. A doctor will determine whether a person is suffering from vertigo or not by means of a physical examination and checking the patient’s medical history.

A person may also be advised to undergo an MRI or CT scan. Thus, a person will only be eligible for treatment after he/she has been properly diagnosed by a doctor.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

A person who does not suffer from the symptoms of dizziness is not eligible for treatment. A person affected by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is not suited to undergo the vestibular rehabilitation. Epley manouevre requires some head exercises to be done.

A person who has a serious head/neck injury is not eligible for this treatment. A person needs to consult a doctor before understanding whether he/she is eligible to take medications like antihistamine and prochlorperazine.

What are the risk factors of getting dizziness?

There are certain factors that are associated with an increased risk of feeling dizzy. Some of those include:

  • People over 50 years
  • History of head injury
  • Being a woman
  • Family history of vertigo patients
  • Medication regimen that includes antidepressants or antipsychotics
  • Medical condition that affects balance
  • History of feeling dizzy or fainting episodes

Are there any side effects?

The side-effects of vestibular rehabilitation therapy include dizziness, muscle fatigue, sedation, weakness, and unsteadiness and falls that may sometimes amplify the disorder. Epley manoeuvre does not have any serious side-effects. However, a small fraction of the patients who have undergone his treatment have experienced transient nausea while fewer people have experienced vomiting.

Prochlorperazine has a number of side-effects like dizziness, drowsiness, sleep disorders, constipation, swelling of breasts, weight gain and missing of menstrual period for women. Antihistamine’s side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, vision problems, confusion and problems in urination.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

There are a number of lifestyle changes you can do in order to get read of dizziness causing havoc in your daily life. After getting the treatment, there are certain things to be kept in mind. Have plenty of rest, keep yourself hydrated at all times and have regular meals.

In case you are feeling dizzy again, lie down immediately. Make your home safe in order to deal with chronic dizziness. This is done by keeping a cane, walker, tub mats, and banisters that may help the patient by avoiding injury. An anxious person who suffers from dizziness can be helped by some reassurance.

What are the complications involved in getting dizziness?

Some of the complications involving dizziness include increased likelihood of a fall or an injury. Dizziness can also increase the risk of an accident while driving or operating heavy machinery. It may also adversely affect the quality of life in the long term if the underlying condition contributing to dizziness is not diagnosed and treated.

How long does it take to recover?

The medications for dizziness are harmless and the symptoms usually go away in about a week to 6 weeks. Thereafter, you need to follow your doctor’s instructions and maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent complications and recurrence.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of diagnosis along with the visit to a doctor will range between Rs. 3,500 to Rs. 4,000. On the other hand, the cost of treatment will range between Rs. 150 to Rs. 500.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results of the treatment can never be permanent without actually altering your usual lifestyle measures. You need to be conscious about your mental and physical health and carry on with regular exercise along with proper diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What are the natural ways to treat dizziness?

Some of the natural ways to treat dizziness include:

  • Foods and nutrients: Certain foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and Iron can provide relief from dizziness. Ginger is particularly helpful against dizziness.
  • Self-awareness: This can help prevent dizziness to a great extent. Self-awareness involves identification of triggers that result in dizziness and avoiding those triggers.
  • Acupuncture: According to studies, acupuncture may help provide therapeutic relief from dizziness.
  • Physical Therapy: Vestibular rehabilitation can help improve balance and reduce the risk of dizziness.
  • Increase water intake: Dehydration can lead to dizziness. Drinking to 8-10 glasses of water a day can help avoid dehydration. It is also recommended to avoid or reduce the intake of diuretics like caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and tobacco to reduce the risk of dehydration and dizziness.

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