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Top 10 Causes of Dizziness

While most of us have experienced dizziness at some point in our lives, it can be one of the most vague and non-specific symptoms out there. So let’s shed some light on this rather mysterious symptom and talk about the 10 most common causes of dizziness.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
July 17, 2014
Episode #160

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Most of us have experienced dizziness at some point in our lives, but unfortunately, it is one of the most vague, non-specific, and difficult-to-dissect symptoms, for both patients and doctors. Dizziness is a challenge to understand because of the following two reasons:

  • The symptom itself has various meanings, and is often difficult to put into words. Is it more “lightheadedness,” a sensation of the “room spinning,” simply general weakness, or a sensation of almost passing out? Dizziness is a rather vague symptom in the first place, and describing it can become an even further challenge.
  • Dizziness can be linked to numerous organ systems. Could it stem from the heart, lung, brain, blood, or nervous system? Basically, dizziness is a non-tangible symptom that could be caused by an endless list of possibilities.

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For most patients, a dizzy spell is not anything serious and resolves on its own. Rarely, though, it can be a sign of something more. And although episodes are often brief and self-limiting, they can be quite a nuisance to have to deal with while they are happening. Some people who experience dizziness can find it challenging to walk short distances or go about their daily activities, while infrequently, there are patients who are terrified to even move. 

So let’s shed some light on this rather mysterious symptom and talk about the 10 most common causes of dizziness. Although this list is by no means comprehensive, most people suffering from dizziness do so becasue of one or more of the following reasons:

Medications

Among others, some anti-depressants (if stopped abruptly), blood pressure medications, prostate drugs, urinary incontinence drugs, and diuretics can cause dizziness. 

Dehydration 

Whether you are hiking up Mount Everest or simply sun-bathing in your backyard, exposure to heat, lack of sufficient fluid intake, and loss of fluids via sweat or urine can dry us up if we’re not careful. When dehydrated, our blood pressure can drop (especially upon standing quickly from a sitting position) and cause us to feel lightheaded. So be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially in the heat, during exercise, and if you consume caffeine or alcoholic beverages (which are diuretics that cause us to urinate more water.) Think about that this summer vacation, when you are sipping a strawberry margarita on the beach!

Electrolyte Imbalances

Imbalances in potassium or sodium levels in our body (out of whack from our diet, medications, diarrhea/vomiting, or other medical conditions) can also cause dizziness.  A simple blood test can detect this one.

Low Blood Sugar

Do you skip meals?  Or are you a diabetic on insulin or certain drugs that drop blood sugars? Low blood sugar can certainly send us off balance.

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