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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.

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