Should you worry about dizziness?

People often complain of feeling faint, light-headed or woozy. More often than not, the cause is not life-threatening. You can feel dizzy because you stood up too quickly or you skipped lunch; but as always, it is better to be safe than sorry. The top causes of light-headedness, and what may be causing them, include: 

Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water, or when more fluids leave the body than enter it. Dehydration can also be caused by overheating (fever) or through an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhoea, such as a stomach bug.

Side effects of prescription medication
Various types of medications such anti-depressants, blood pressure drugs and muscle relaxants can cause dizziness. But even common medications such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories can cause light-headedness. These medications will have warnings to alert you that drowsiness is a side effect.

Blood pressure drop
A temporary drop in your blood pressure when you stand up, known as orthostatic hypotension, can result in light-headedness.

Low blood sugar
Without enough blood sugar, your body will go into reserve to use the least amount of energy, including your brain – causing light-headedness and confusion.

Heart attack and stroke
Unfortunately, dizziness or imbalance could also be a sign of something much more serious, such as a stroke or heart attack. On its own, however, dizziness is not likely to be associated with stroke or heart problems. But be wary when other symptoms accompany the dizziness. These include:

– loss of balance or coordination
– sudden numbness, especially if on one side of your body
– sudden difficulty speaking or walking
– double vision or sudden trouble with eyesight
– severe headaches
– shortness of breath
– fainting
– falls
– chest pain
– back pain
– vomiting
– fever 

Associate Professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School Dr Shamai Grossman, says: “Don’t ignore it. Even if the light-headedness does not have a serious cause, it could lead to serious injuries from a fall. At worst, the cause may itself be life-threatening.”

Talk to your GP if you experience dizziness regularly, and clearly explain the sensations you are feeling. The more information you can supply, the better your GP can detect other serious issues. As a rule of thumb, if a dizzy spell is preventing you from going about your normal activities, see your doctor.

Prevention is always better than a cure and by leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, you will lessen the chances of dizziness and prevent more serious problems.

Do you have dizzy spells? What caused them?

Related articles:
Why does balance get worse as we age?
Why you should listen up to your body
What if you get sick overseas?

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

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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