How to know when dizziness is serious?

Dizziness is characterized as a feeling of wooziness, fainting, disorientation, & plain unsteadiness. It can range from mild fainting feeling to severe balance disorder that makes normal functioning almost impossible for patients to function in their everyday life. Dizziness has multiple causes, although it is almost ubiquitously present in older adults, aged over 65 years. In this article, we provide dizziness symptoms, causes and early signs.

Many patients experience dizziness in different ways. It is possible that no two people experience similar symptoms, although there are a few symptoms that are common across all patients of dizziness. These common dizziness symptoms include:

  • Feeling lightheaded, or a feeling of almost fainting
  • Unsteadiness, or a loss of balance
  • A false sense of the surroundings spinning or moving around, also known as vertigo
  • Floating, swimming, or feeling heavy-headed

Dizziness is usually not a cause for concern and most cases of dizziness go away on their own. This happens as the body automatically adjusts to whatever is causing the dizziness. However, some cases of dizziness can result due to a serious ongoing condition or infection that pose a fatal threat to your health.

These cases of dizziness need to be checked out by a doctor immediately after they appear, as delaying treatment will only worsen the existing condition and worsen your prognosis.

What are dizziness symptoms?

When a person has dizziness, they may feel like fainting, passing out, weak, fatigued, nauseous, vomiting, confused, disoriented, tired, clumsy, & may even fall off from their current positions. The patient might experience a spinning sensation, a moving feeling, or a feeling of being on a rocking boat.

They might feel that the room is spinning or that they themselves are moving around, even though no external motion stimulus exists. Dizziness can be experienced in many different ways, although there are a few symptoms and experiences that are similar across all cases of dizziness.

These common signs & symptoms of dizziness include:

  • Faintness(lightheadedness) or actual fainting
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Feeling off balance
  • headache(or head pressure)
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Experiencing dizziness along with these signs and symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong with you. Dizziness is not a condition that warrants medical attention in most cases. However, in certain cases, dizziness can become a problematic factor for some people. This, combined with some other factors like existing medical conditions, old age, & injuries, can all increase the chances of you falling down or hurting yourself gravely.

Causes of dizziness:

There are many possible causes of dizziness. Most of these are quite benign & don’t indicate a life-threatening emergency. However, some of these can mean that you might need to see a doctor for adequate dizziness treatment & the treatment for the underlying condition.

Some of the most common dizziness causes include:

  • BPPV, also known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. It is a type of peripheral vertigo that causes sudden, intense, short bursts of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, & other vertigo-like symptoms that significantly hamper a person’s quality of life. BPPV is one of the leading causes of vertigo in people, & is caused by inner ear problems.
  • Dizziness is sometimes also caused by heartburn or other heart-related problems. High blood pressure, sudden low blood pressure, arrhythmia, & lots of other heart-related problems. Certain toxins also affect the heart muscles and can lead to cardiomyopathy in some people, which is also a possible cause of dizziness. In certain cases, dizziness can also be caused by a mini-stroke or heart attack.
  • Dizziness can also be caused by certain brain-related ailments. Stroke, brain tumors, headaches, migraines, fainting, dementia, or general confusion can also be potential causes of dizziness.
  • A lack of oxygen to certain vital organs(hypoxia), including the brain, can also lead to dizziness and sudden fainting. Excessive exertion, heat-stroke, & operating very heavy machinery continuously for long periods of time can also cause dizziness in some people.
  • Dehydration, low blood sugar(hypoglycemia), lack of adequate sleep, malnutrition, anemia, etc., can all cause dizziness.
  • Allergies can also cause dizziness in some people, along with internal blood, & some endocrine diseases.
  • Anxiety disorders, including excessive stress and anxiety, can also cause dizziness in some people.
  • Old age & age-related neuropathy, arteriosclerosis, orthostatic hypotension, & menopause can all be causes of dizziness in older people.

There are also some cases where the exact cause of dizziness is not known. Such cases are generally treated as sudden onset of dizziness.

When does dizziness indicate a serious problem?

In some cases, dizziness is the first indication of a serious, life-threatening disease. It can be difficult for you to figure out when dizziness is a cause for concern, and when you don’t need to worry.

You should get immediate medical attention in case you experience any of the below-mentioned signs & symptoms along with dizziness. These signs & symptoms include:

  • Recurrent, sudden, severe, & prolonged dizziness or vertigo
  • Any new sudden dizziness
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Difficulty in breathing or a feeling of pressure in your chest
  • Numbing of muscles or paralysis of arms &/or legs
  • Fainting
  • Double vision
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion or irregular, slurred speech
  • Disorientation and general weakness
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Ongoing vomiting and severe nausea
  • Inability to hold down food or liquid
  • Seizures
  • A sudden change or loss of hearing
  • Facial numbness of weakness

Dizziness in these cases can signal something serious & potentially life-threatening for you. This warrants immediate medical attention, as well as regular checkups & follow-ups to prevent any accidents & untoward incidents.

What can you do during a dizziness attack?

During an acute dizziness attack, you can try one of the following self-care tips & home remedies to stabilize yourself for the time being. Until you can visit the doctor to find out the exact cause of your dizziness, these tips will likely help you control your dizziness better.

  • Move slowly or don’t move at all. For Try to stay as still as possible when you’re having an acute dizziness attack. Try to lay down on a bed or a stable surface that helps you maintain your equilibrium for the entire duration of the dizziness attack. Try not to move or perform any activities during this time as it can increase your chances of falling down & hurting yourself.
  • Drink lots of water & keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration can either bring on dizziness or worsen any existing condition that causes dizziness. Staying hydrated & drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is a useful home remedy for dizziness.
  • Stay away from caffeine & alcohol, as these can worsen existing dizziness disorders in people prone to them. Also, quit smoking and indulging in excess salt consumption. The latter is especially important for people with Meniere’s Disease, as excess salt worsens the equilibrium of fluid inside the ear, causing dizziness, nausea, feelings of pressure inside the ear, tinnitus, & vertigo-like symptoms.

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