This malaise can be linked to metabolic, neurologic, or ear pathologies. Sometimes it can be treated at home, and other times you must see a physician.
By Samuel Muñoz, ear, throat and nose doctor with Coomeva Medicina Prepagada.
That feeling that everything is spinning, or you are spinning, spinning backwards, forwards, left or right, or that the floor is moving, or sinking, or that your head feels heavy, is what is commonly known as dizziness.
Some people confuse dizziness with vertigo. What you must understand is that the latter is a pathology linked to a balance disorder linked to neurological or ear problems, and the former is one of the symptoms of vertigo.
Dizziness can also be the manifestation of metabolic alterations or systemic diseases (a spike or drop in blood sugar levels, high or low blood pressure, vascular problems, dyslipidemia – an alteration in your cholesterol levels), and yet the patient will not be considered to have vertigo.
Also, it is part of a series of symptoms, for example when it is linked to ear pathologies, it will usually be accompanied by sweating, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, and overall discomfort. Due to repetitive and persistent movement or displacement, the peripheral mechanisms of the ear and brain cannot adapt properly, and thus dizziness occurs.
In order to avoid dizziness when you travel, try to sit in the middle or central area of the vehicle or means of transportation, because that’s where the least oscillations occur. Try to sit down, look outside, and move as little as possible. Try not to engage in any other activities. If you are in the car, increase the ventilation, take breaks, and avoid rough driving. Eat small portions and light foods. Take medication to prevent dizziness half an hour before your trip, and bring plastic bags in case you feel like vomiting.
On the other hand, when transitioning from cold temperatures to warm temperatures, from light to dark, from lying down to sitting up, your body needs to adapt in order to maintain its inner balance. This adaptation process is performed by the autonomic nervous system. When it is unable to adapt, this can result in dysautonomia. Dizziness is a symptom of dysautonomia, which can occur when there is a sudden drop in your blood pressure when you get up or switch positions, from lying down to standing up. A person who suffers from this condition is prone to dizziness when they’re going to lie down, get up, or change positions while lying down. They should avoid sudden changes in posture, get up slowly if they were lying down, and remain seated for a few moments before they get up. Additionally, they should hold onto something while getting up.
Samuel Muñoz stated that when dizziness is strong and intense, when a person can either sit up nor standup, when they have a lot of nausea and vomiting, as well as intermittent, short, and momentary dizzy spells, they should at all costs go for an emergency consultation, so that vertigo medication can be prescribed to them. If it is a recurrent (chronic) condition, you should ideally consult with a physician.
Older adults are more prone to dizzy spells due to aging-associated diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, presbyacusis (aging-related loss of hearing) and presbyvertigo (vertigo linked to old age).
Types of dizziness
If you experience any of these symptoms, please visit your physician for an accurate diagnosis.
- Vertigo: a feeling of lack of stability upon walking, where a person will feel like the objects around them are spinning. It is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. There are two types of vertigo, peripheral and central.
- Fainting or Lipothymia: an episode of momentary loss of consciousness, which is generally preceded by a feeling of dizziness and weakness of the knees, blurry vision or pallor.
- Instability: a type of dizzy spell where there is no feeling of fainting. The symptoms are a lack of security upon walking; a feeling that objects around you are spinning; difficulty maintaining balance, blurry vision, among others.
- Other problems: ear alterations, blood pressure variations, cervical problems, eyeglass prescription errors, excess oxygenation, the use of certain medications and multiple sclerosis can also cause dizzy spells.