Seven common causes of dizziness

Many parts of your body are constantly working together to keep you balanced. Everything from your eyes to your brain to your little toe is important when it comes to staying stable on your feet. When even a small part of that system is off, it can make you feel dizzy.

Occasional dizziness is not usually something to worry about, but it can be a sign of something more serious, and it can also be dangerous if it causes you to trip or fall.

Dizziness is often described as:

  • a false sense of motion or spinning (vertigo)
  • light headedness or feeling faint
  • unsteadiness or a loss of balance
  • a feeling of floating, wooziness or heavy headedness.

Dizziness can occur when sitting or lying down but these uncomfortable feelings usually feel worse when standing, walking or even just moving your head.

Dizziness can also be accompanied by nausea. If you experience any recurrent, sudden, severe or prolonged dizziness or vertigo, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Read: Dizzy spells linked to dementia

Possible causes of dizziness

“Our central balance comes from multiple parts of the body; the eyes, inner ear, muscles and skeletal system, so any number of things that affect those systems can cause dizziness,” explains Dr Abhi Verma, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners spokesperson and GP.

Here are seven common causes of dizziness.

Vertigo

Feeling as though the room is spinning or tilting around you is a classic symptom of vertigo. Vertigo is often a sign that something is up with your inner ear or the part of the brainstem that governs balance. A condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is the most common cause.

Your inner ear is a complicated system of canals filled with fluid. With BPPV, tiny calcium carbonate crystals within the inner ear move out of position. This activates nerve cells that tell the brain your head’s moving when it’s not.

BPPV is triggered by certain changes in head position, such as tipping the head up or down. It’s rarely serious unless it increases the risk of falling and it can often be treated by completing a series of head movements to shift particles in the ears.

An infection

Inflammation of the nerves in your ears can also cause dizziness and vertigo. Both your vestibular nerve and your cochlear nerve can become inflamed due to an infection. Usually, a virus is to blame, but bacteria from a middle ear infection or meningitis can make their way into your inner ear as well.

Infection typically causes sudden dizziness, a ringing in the ears and it may be hard to hear. You may also feel nauseous and have a fever and ear pain. Symptoms can last several weeks but can often be treated with medication.

Read: Seven medical reasons why you might be feeling tired all the time

Meniere’s disease

This disease causes an excess of fluid to build up in your inner ear. Symptoms often include sudden bouts of vertigo lasting up to several hours. You may also experience fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear and the feeling of a plugged ear.

Circulation and blood pressure

Most people have felt that light-headed feeling from standing up too quickly. Medically, this is known as orthostatic hypotension, where there is a drastic drop in blood pressure when you stand up. It’s usually nothing to worry about but if it happens a lot, consider talking to a doctor.

Some people feel light-headed from poor circulation on a frequent or chronic basis, which can be a sign that there’s a problem with your blood flow. Your brain needs a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood. Some causes of low blood flow to the brain include blood clots, clogged arteries, heart failure, and an irregular heartbeat.

Side-effects of medication

Some medications such as antibiotics, blood pressure meds, antihistamines, sedatives, muscle relaxants, opiates, and antidepressants can cause dizziness.

Low blood sugar

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia, occurs when the body doesn’t get enough glucose, or sugar. It can also cause hunger, shaking, sweating, and confusion. If your dizzy spell is related to low blood sugar, grab a snack. Try orange juice, a banana, or a protein bar to quickly replenish sugar in the body.

Read: Four ways to maintain healthy blood sugar levels

Neck problems

Cervical vertigo is a feeling of disorientation caused by a neck injury or health condition that affects the neck. It’s typically accompanied by neck pain and your range of motion can be affected too.A stiff neck and tight upper back muscles caused by poor posture and stress can also cause this.

Other causes of dizziness can include age, dehydration, anaemia, anxiety, pregnancy and head injury. Neurological disorders such as migraines or multiple sclerosis, and heart problems can also be responsible.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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