Dizziness and Vertigo
Q: The other day while I was outside pulling a few weeds, I got extremely
dizzy. My yard was actually spinning around me. It passed after a few minutes
and I figured it was just the heat, but a few days later the same thing happened
while I was in line at the grocery store and I was afraid I was going to faint.
What's going on?
Dr. Donnica: Dizziness is fairly common and has many possible causes. It
may be called lightheadedness, feeling faint, being unsteady, losing balance,
or feeling that you or the space around you is spinning (vertigo). The good news
is that most causes of dizziness are not serious. They either resolve quickly
or respond well to treatment. Common causes of dizziness include dehydration (from
excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever), a bad cold or the flu, anemia
(low blood count), or sudden drops in blood pressure. Many medications may also
cause dizziness as a side effect. More serious causes include heart problems or
stroke, but these conditions are usually accompanied by other symptoms.
Vertigo is characterized by a spinning sensation. A fairly common cause of
vertigo is labyrinthitis, an irritation of the cells of the vestibular system
deep in the inner ear. This irritation upsets one's balance and may occur
after a flu-like illness or a severe ear infection, but often has no clear cause.
It often resolves on its own, but it may intermittently reappear over weeks
or months. While this is usually not serious, it requires medical evaluation
to determine the cause and to identify its proper treatment, which may or may
not be clear. Until that exam, avoid driving or operating potentially dangerous
machinery. Be sure that you are well hydrated, well rested, and avoid alcohol
or unnecessary medications.
Created: 4/8/2005  - Donnica Moore, M.D.