Dizziness: recognising the cause and treating the symptoms

Feeling dizzy can often be an indication that something is out of kilter.

Mature woman on couch feeling dizzy

Whether it’s caused by getting up too quickly, not eating enough or as a result of exertion, feeling dizzy isn't very pleasant. While the underlying causes should be investigated if it happens frequently, there are simple ‘cures’ that will help the initial feelings pass.

What is dizziness?
Dizziness is essentially a common term for either feeling light-headed – where you get the sense that you may pass out or faint, or vertigo – where it feels as though your surroundings are swaying. It is important to understand the difference, as it will help your GP to diagnose any underlying conditions.

What causes dizziness?
While dizziness can be a symptom of several different conditions, the five main reasons you feel light-headed or experience vertigo are:

Anxiety – when it’s difficult to breathe because you’re feeling anxious, the lack of oxygen to the brain can cause feelings of dizziness.

Ear infections – your ears are responsible for helping you to keep your balance and infections, which can result in fluid in the ear canal, can make it harder to do so.

Lack of sugar – this can lead to low blood pressure, which in turn results in dizziness and is often a result of following a specific diet or simply not eating regularly.

Dehydration – the importance of drinking water can't be underestimated, especially when the weather is particularly warm. Lack of hydration can lead to dizziness.

Medicines – some medicines can cause lower blood sugar due to their interaction and this may cause you to feel dizzy.

What can you do to treat the symptoms?
If you feel dizzy, it’s vital that you take action to stop yourself from falling over, fainting or bumping into something and hurting yourself. These five simple tips will help you to feel steadier on your feet.

  1. Drink some water – especially if your dizziness is caused by dehydration.
  2. Eat something – a cracker or piece of fruit is usually enough for the dizziness to pass
  3. Breathe deeply – sit or lie down and take a deep breath, holding it for two or three seconds, then exhale from your stomach. Repeat 10 times and then rest for five minutes until your breathing returns to normal.
  4. Ginger – chew on a small piece of ginger or drink a glass of ginger ale. This will stimulate the blood flow to the brain and combat the feelings of dizziness.
  5. Focus – by concentrating on an object or picture, your mind is distracted from the dizziness and the equilibrium in your body will return.

Do you have any tips for dealing with dizziness?



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    27th Jan 2017
    The basis of this article is indicative of the forgotten major issue - the same for most of our issues in life: Treating the symptoms when we should be identifying and eliminating the cause.
    27th Jan 2017
    With dehydration once the symptoms are evident hydration is a must, but this will not immediately relieve the ill effects - only time with water will.
    27th Jan 2017
    I agree with Janus - identifying and eliminating the cause of dizziness is the major issue. I have been suffering with major dizziness/vertigo. It is terrible. Doctor prescribed Betahistine. I said to him - how about we look at what is actually causing these symptoms? So he sends me off for a CT scan and written a referral to see an Ear Nose and Throat specialist. I know what the end result will be. A script to mask the dizziness/vertigo.
    27th Jan 2017
    Chris, if your vertigo is diagnosed as BPPV, and you are either living in Sydney or Melbourne ask your doctor for a referral to a dizzy clinic ( here in Sydney at P.A. don't know where in Melbourne) where they have an omniax machine.
    My wife suffered for more than 3 years from BPPV, received treatment by various physio's who manapulated her head left to right with a bit of success.
    This OMNIAX machine cured my wife's vertigo in 3 sessions totally.This was 3 months ago. Google OMNIAX and you will see what is involved.
    27th Jan 2017
    After three months of expensive medical testing with several specialists over twenty years ago I was told I suffered with vestibular neuritis, which I discovered recently is a just a catch all diagnosis for... yes you guessed ... it dizziness. So I went to the expense of attending these scalpers with dizziness to be provided with their diagnosis of dizziness????? Thanks for that!

    Six months ago I collapsed on a bike ride and attended my GP, who sent me off for a fasting blood test and you guessed it ... I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and the nerve damage caused over twenty years was deemed irreversible. A simple blood test which the specialists never saw fit to do despite dizziness being one of the symptoms of Type 2 - staggering!

    As far as I'm concerned, and I've now met many people who were similarly undiagnosed, is that Type 2 testing should be compulsory at around forty years of age as it is a major contributor to many health issues in one's later years. The cost is small compared to the personal and economic cost to the community and yet no government is willing to put their hand up and address this real and biggest emerging health issue in the world. Type 2 causes more misery and early death than all cancers put together and yet it remains off the radar because governments world wide see it too costly to address. This short termism just kicks the health can costs down the road to future generations who are forced to deal with the issue when it is simply too late and only the symptoms can be managed. If early intervention was available, then through medication and lifestyle adjustments, diabetics could live longer and not be such a huge burden on the public purse.

    No one knows the causation of Type 2, although food corruption is highly suspected as processing destroys key nutrients as is the so called modern lifestyle and lack of exercise in early years. Type 2 is not as apparent as cancer treatment and this low profile is a silent epidemic causing much more social damage and cost. While this is so there will never be a cure.

    27th Jan 2017
    I have a quandary that bloggers may like to advise me on. I have a neighbour who suffers dizzy spells, when severe they cause blackouts, and continues to drive his car. I mentioned it to him but he assured me that he can always tell when it is about to happen and can pull over in time. We are friends and I am loath to go to the relevant authorities.
    27th Jan 2017
    Do you know the relatives of this person that you can speak to about it? Has he been to the GP about it at all? Perhaps ask him how long since he had his blood pressure checked. There could be a variety of causes which should be investigated. Has he complained about headaches at all. It sounds as though it could be a type of Epilepsy. Some get warning then suddenly no longer get any warning they recognise. He could be putting not only his but other peoples lives at risk. You don't want to risk feeling guilty if he has an accident and you could have prevented it.
    27th Jan 2017
    I had vertigo quite some years ago,(having to hold on to the wall) and my doctor asked me if anyone in my family suffered with Meniers disease. If you also suffer from tinnitus, chances are you have meniers. I was sent to a specialist at RPA and it was confirmed as vertigo within meniers. He said that little crystals in the inner earbreak loose sometimes and float around. That being where your balance comes from, hence vertigo. He suggested that each morning I lie on my back and very slowly roll my head from side to side 10 times in the hope that it would dissolve the crystals. IT WORKED. Unfortunately I now have the tinnitus and it does not work for that.
    27th Jan 2017
    I found a really good physiotherapist who specialises in the manoeuvre to balance the crystals and she was a godsend. fortunately I was cured after two visits, but she did say It could return. Been 2 years so far. I was annoyed that my doctor did not tell me about this option and I suffered for years and took stematil regularly
    27th Jan 2017
    One thing that temporarily cause dizziness is if you have to "duck" your head down so you don't hit it. e.g. getting out of a mini-bus if you are tall. I asked my GP about it and he told me it temporarily reduces the supply of blood to your brain.
    27th Jan 2017
    I always stand still when I stand up straight until the dizziness passes.

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