Dizziness can mean different things to different people and can be caused by multiple reasons or situations.
Some people describe dizziness as feeling lightheaded, while some say it is a feeling of movement, either of themselves or the world around them. Another group might say dizziness is a feeling of being unbalanced, while others may have trouble describing it as anything other than plain dizziness.
Some of those who experience dizziness have accompanying nausea, vomiting, or a sense that they might faint.
Dizziness is not a disease or condition in its own right, but rather a symptom of another issue affecting someone.
Dizziness often goes away over time. In some cases, however, dizziness will not resolve on its own. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to treat it.
A doctor will take into account what is producing the symptom and then suggest treatments that can include medications, therapies, lifestyle changes, or even surgery.
Most of the time, no medication is needed, but there are some drugs that can be used to treat the underlying causes of dizziness. Depending on the cause, these can include:
- anti-anxiety medications, when dizziness is caused by panic disorders or by mental health issues
- anticholinergic drugs or antihistamines, which may reduce dizziness or offer relief from vertigo
- medications for migraines, if the dizziness is linked to migraines
Each of these medications can treat an underlying cause of dizziness, such as fluid buildup in the ear, anxiety, the side effects from a particular drug, or other reasons. Lifestyle changes or a further visit to the doctor may be necessary if these treatments do not help alleviate the dizziness.
If medication is not helping to treat dizziness, an individual may need to try some lifestyle changes.
These changes could be as simple as drinking more water or other non-alcoholic liquid to keep well-hydrated, or lying down when feeling dizzy.
Steps people can take to relieve dizziness include:
- lying down and closing the eyes
- drinking plenty of water and keeping hydrated
- reducing stress plus alcohol and tobacco intake
- getting plenty of sleep
There are several therapeutic approaches that can also be used to help relieve dizziness, such as head position maneuvers, balance therapy, or psychotherapy.
- Head position maneuvers: A method called the Epley maneuver may help with feelings of dizziness. It involves moving the position of the head in specific ways to reposition small calcium crystals that are causing the dizziness. People should discuss the approach with a doctor before using it.
- Balance therapy: There are several exercises that people can do to train their bodies to become less sensitive to movement. These can help if dizziness is caused by a problem with the inner ear.
- Psychotherapy: If someone has dizziness that is related to an anxiety disorder, psychotherapy may help them to relieve this symptom.
A lifestyle change can be simple yet make a huge difference in reducing dizziness.
Someone with dizziness that does not resolve on its own after at least a week should see a doctor immediately.
According to a paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, “The clinician’s first job is to sort out whether the dizzy patient is having attacks of vertigo, or attacks of some other paroxysmal symptom.”
Because dizziness is sometimes a symptom of a bigger issue, it is important for a doctor to diagnose the problem if the dizziness does not fade or become more manageable.
A doctor should be seen if the person experiences:
- persistent or severe headaches or migraines
- falling over regularly or a struggle when walking
- frequent or ongoing vomiting and nausea
- loss of consciousness
- shortness of breath or a struggle breathing
- any head injury
- a severely stiff neck
If the dizziness is ongoing, frequent or severe, a doctor should be seen immediately.
When trying to get rid of dizziness, it is important to remember that it is a symptom of another issue and not a medical disorder in itself.
Dizziness can be caused by a wide variety of different factors, such as:
- consuming alcohol
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
- low blood pressure
- low blood sugar
- panic disorder or panic attacks
- middle ear infection
- motion sickness
- Meniere’s disease
- an inflammation of the inner ear called labyrinthitis
There are many other instances and underlying causes of dizziness.
Certain medications can also cause dizziness as a side effect. People should always check the side effects of any medications they are taking to see if they may lead to dizziness.
Vertigo causes a similar feeling to dizziness but is a standalone condition. A person experiencing vertigo will feel like the environment around them is moving or spinning. Dizziness is a sensation while vertigo is the illusion of movement.
When someone feels as though they are moving in a similar manner, it is called subjective vertigo.
Diagnosing dizziness is often straightforward. Doctors will check to see if the person feels disorientated, woozy, or unbalanced. They will then look for other symptoms before checking for the underlying cause of the dizziness. A doctor will try to narrow down what is causing the dizziness so that they can treat that condition.
The doctor will ask a series of questions about when the dizziness began and other symptoms a person may have experienced.
They might then decide to check the inner ear, blood pressure, and other physical characteristics of the person, to make sure they are hydrated, their blood sugar is at a healthy level, and to check for other possible causes of the dizziness.
Once the doctor has decided about the probable cause of the dizziness, they will be able to suggest a treatment plan for the individual.