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When your world turns upside down: Understanding dizziness

Dizziness is one the most common reasons people visit a health care provider. For many, the sensation can be fleeting and is rarely a symptom of something serious. But when dizziness is long-lasting or keeps coming back, it can put your life into a tailspin. 

When left unchecked, recurrent or constant dizziness may:

  • Be a sign of a medical condition that requires treatment.
  • Cause balance issues that can lead to falls.
  • Make it unsafe to drive or operate heavy equipment.
  • Impact your work, family life, social activities and other day-to-day tasks.


What are the common symptoms of dizziness?

Dizziness can affect people in different ways, and the term can be used to describe a range of sensations, including:

  • Lightheadedness or feeling faint.
  • Loss of balance or unsteadiness.
  • Nausea or wooziness.
  • A feeling of floating.
  • Double vision or blurred vision.
  • A false sense of motion or spinning.

Those sensations can worsen or be triggered with movement, such as walking, standing up or moving your head. 

Dizzy spells can last a few seconds or go on for days and keep coming back, depending on the cause.


What causes dizziness?

Dizziness occurs when there isn’t enough blood pumping to your brain. Dizzy spells can last a few seconds or go on for days and keep coming back, depending on the cause.

Some of the most common reasons for dizziness – and the easiest ones to pinpoint – include:

  • Standing up too quickly after sitting or lying down.
  • Standing too long in one spot.
  • Severe dehydration.
  • Spending too much time in the sun or in a hot tub.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Certain medications, including blood pressure medications.

Dizziness can also be caused by certain medical conditions. The most common culprits are inner ear disorders, including:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which causes a spinning sensation when you move your head.

  • Inner ear infections caused by a virus or bacteria.

  • Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis, which result from an infection and inflammation in the inner ear and the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.

  • Persistent postural perceptual dizziness (PPPD). This balance issue causes frequent dizziness and feels like rocking or swaying. PPPD is often a common cause of long-term dizziness.  

Other medical conditions that can cause dizziness include:

  • Anxiety or stress.
  • Diabetes.
  • Anemia. 
  • Concussion.
  • Cardiovascular issues, including irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure or narrowed arteries.
  • Neurological conditions, including migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. 

How is dizziness treated?

Treatment for dizziness varies depending on what’s causing it. For instance:

  • If you have an ear infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics. 
  • If medication is the cause, your health care provider might adjust your prescription. 
  • If you’re dealing with vertigo, you may be given exercises to help ease your symptoms. 
  • If you have nausea with your dizziness, an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Dramamine might help.

You can’t treat dizziness on your own, but there are some self-care steps you can take if you experience frequent bouts of dizziness:

  • Sit or lie down immediately when you start to feel dizzy.
  • Move slowly when you stand up from lying down.
  • Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent dizziness spells that come on with little or no warning.
  • Eliminate fall hazards, such as area rugs or electrical cords. Use non-slip mats in the tub and shower. 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco, which can restrict blood flow and make dizziness worse.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and avoid stress.
  • If dizziness is caused by overheating or dehydration, rest in a cool place and drink water.


When should I see a doctor about my dizziness?

Most causes of dizziness aren’t serious, and most cases of dizziness will go away on their own or are easily treatable. But if you have frequent or severe dizzy spells that disrupt your daily life, it’s important to see a health care clinician to determine the cause and manage your symptoms. 

Indigo is here to help, and we make it easy to get the care you need, when you need it. Simply walk into one of our convenient neighborhood locations or book an appointment online.

One of our friendly Indigo clinicians will evaluate your symptoms, overall health and medical history, and provide a prompt diagnosis and treatment plan. They may also order tests to determine if something’s wrong or you have deficiencies that may be causing your dizziness. All Indigo Urgent Care locations have on-site labs, so you expect fast results. And if you need a higher level of care, Indigo will provide a referral to a specialist.

If just the thought of an in-person visit makes your head spin, Indigo Virtual Care is a great option. Schedule a same-day or next-day appointment to meet face-to-face with one of our clinicians from your favorite device. 

Either way, we’re here from 8 am to 8 pm every day, including weekends.

In some cases, dizziness along with other symptoms could be a sign of something more serious that requires immediate care. You should call 911 or visit your nearest ER if you experience new, severe dizziness or vertigo and any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs
  • Fainting
  • Double vision
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Continuous vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Sudden hearing changes
  • Facial numbness or weakness
  • Loss of consciousness or alertness for more than a few minutes

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