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Dizziness: causes, types and treatment

Dizziness is a symptom of changes in the body, which does not always indicate a serious condition, and most often occurs due to a condition known as labyrinthitis, but may also be caused by problems of imbalance, drops in blood pressure levels, changes in heart function or side effect of medications.

Another very common situation is dizziness when standing up, which occurs in a situation known as orthostatic hypotension, in which blood pressure decreases because the you get up very quickly. However, this type of dizziness is transient and improves in a few seconds.

This symptom is more common in the elderly, however, it also occurs in young people, and may arise in different situations depending on the cause, such as lying down, common in labyrinthitis, when getting up, appears due to pressure drops, or do some physical exertion, which happens in heart or pressure problems.

Dizziness: causes, types and treatment

When repeated episodes of dizziness occur, it is recommended you make an appointment with a general practitioner or your family physician to investigate the possible causes. However, if the dizziness is very strong or prolonged, for more than 1 hour for example, you should go to a medical clinic or emergency room to be assessed and treated faster.

Main causes for dizziness

There are several forms of dizziness, which may appear alone or accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, weakness in the legs, headache or "empty head" feeling. The main causes are:

1. Vertigo or Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is the most common cause for dizziness. This type of dizziness gives you the feeling that everything is spinning around, which can be accompanied by nausea and tinnitus, and usually happens due to changes in the ear. Vertigo tends to cause dizziness even when lying down, and it is common for it to be triggered with head movements, such as turning to your side on the bed or looking sideways.

What to do: The treatment for benign paroxysmal vertigo is done by the otolaryngologist, who can do some repositioning maneuvers of the otoliths, called the Epley maneuver, in addition to recommending the use of drugs such as Betaine, for daily use, and Dramin, when you have crisis. It is recommended you observe the presence of wax stoppers in the ear, in addition to avoiding stress and consumption of caffeine, sugar and cigarettes, which are situations that may worsen the dizziness crisis.

Other less common vertigo conditions are labyrinthitis caused by inflammation or ear infections, vestibular neuritis, and Meniere's disease, for example.

2. Imbalance

The feeling of imbalance is another important cause of dizziness, and it can cause the sensation you are staggering or with loss of the balance. This can cause constant dizziness and usually occurs in the elderly or in situations of:

  • Vision changes, such as cataracts, glaucoma, myopia, or farsightedness;
  • Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's, stroke, brain tumor or Alzheimer's, for example;
  • Bump on the head, which can cause temporary or permanent injuries in the brain region that regulates balance;
  • Loss of feeling in the feet and legs caused by diabetes;
  • Consumption of alcohol or drugs, which alters perception and the ability of the brain to function;
  • Use of medication that can alter balance, such as Diazepam, Clonazepam, Fernobarbital, Fenoína and Metoclopramida, for example.

What to do: In order to treat the imbalance, it is necessary to resolve its cause, with the appropriate treatment. If it is a vision problem you should seek an ophthalmologist or if it is due to a neurological disease you should seek a neurologist. It is also important you make an appointment with the geriatrician or general practitioner so that adjustments to your medication can be done according to the condition and needs you present.

Dizziness: causes, types and treatment

3. Blood pressure drops

Dizziness that occurs from cardiac and circulation changes is called pre-syncope or orthostatic hypotension, and arises when pressure falls and blood is not pumped properly into the brain, causing a fainting feeling or dimming and the appearance of bright spots in your vision.

This type of dizziness may arise when you wake up, get up, during an exercise, or even suddenly when you are standing still. The main causes are:

  • Sudden blood pressure drop, called orthostatic hypotension, and arises from a defect in pressure adjustment, which is usually not severe, and is due to changes in posture, such as getting up from a bed or a chair;
  • Heart problems, such as arrhythmias or heart failure, that make it difficult for blood to flow through the body. See the 12 symptoms that may indicate heart disease;
  • Use of medication that cause pressure drops, such as diuretics, nitrate, methyldopa, clonidine, levodopa and amitriptyline, for example, mainly in the elderly;
  • Pregnancy as it is a period in which there are changes in circulation and there may be a decrease in blood pressure due to the weight of the uterus on the blood vessels.

Other conditions, such as anemia and hypoglycaemia, while not causing a drop in blood pressure, alter the blood's ability to carry oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, and can cause dizziness.

What to do: The treatment for this type of dizziness also depends on the treatment followed, which can be done with a cardiologist, geriatrician or general practitioner, who can do the research with the necessary exams and adjustments.

4. Anxiety

Psychological changes such as depression and anxiety can cause dizziness as they trigger the panic syndrome and changes in breathing. These situations cause dizziness that is usually accompanied by shortness of breath, tremors and tingling in the extremities such as the hands, feet and mouth.

This type of dizziness can also happen repeatedly, and it comes in periods of increased stress.

What to do: You should treat anxiety with psychotherapy, and, if necessary, a psychiatrist can prescribe antidepressant or anxiolytic medication.

What to do if you become dizzy 

When feeling dizzy, keep your eyes open, stop, and look at a fixed point in front of you. Doing this for a few seconds usually makes the dizziness feeling go away quickly. Vertigo is when the person is standing still but feels things move around on their own, and it seems like the world is spinning around them. This situation is very common, its usually benign, and has a cure. It can be solved with eye exercises and a specific techniques that improves the dizziness crisis in a few sessions.

Even after you follow these measures mentioned above and dizziness does not improve, is very severe, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to see a general practitioner to identify if there is any specific cause that needs treatment.

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