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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
4-minute read
Episode #160

Anemia

Young menstruating women with heavy periods are one of the most common groups of patients with anemia. However, those who spill microscopic amounts of blood in the stool (from a bleeding stomach ulcer or problems with the colon, for example), or those have other types of anemia, can also experience dizziness.  Your doctor can check you for anemia with a blood test.

Anxiety/Depression/Stress

Patients who tend to hyperventilate (even to a very mild degree) over time can, believe it or not, gradually experience a non-specific dizziness. This is why we’ve been taught to breathe into a paper bag when we get a little anxious. It’s also important to learn to breathe through the nose, rather than the mouth.

Meniere’s Disease

Not as common of a cause, but you may have heard about this one while searching the internet, so that’s why I mention it. Meniere's Disease includes a triad of symptoms: vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus (ringing in your ears.)

Heart Problems

Heart arrhythmias, heart valve deformities, or other problems with the heart can also cause dizziness. This type of dizziness is typically experienced when patients are upright, and is often described as the sensation of “almost passing out” (or actually passing out.) It’s also more of a concern with older patients, those who have risk factors for heart disease, or those with prior heart issues.

Nervous System Issues

Strokes or diseases of the nervous system can also cause dizziness--but note that they often are accompanied by other disturbing systems, not just dizziness.

Vertigo

This is by far the most common cause of dizziness (and something that I will need to tackle in more detail in a future episode.)

Our center of balance is located in our inner ears on both sides, in what is referred to as the “vestibular system.”  Some patients whose vestibular system is not equal in both sides may experience a sensation of movement--either of the “room spinning” or the illusion of themselves moving--throughout their lives, and this can often be triggered and/or worsened by head movement.

Viruses can also attack the inner ear and wreak havoc on our sense of balance, as can any other inner ear problems (such as inflammation, extra fluid buildup from allergies, etc.) This is benign, but can be a challenge to have to deal with on a daily basis.  It typically self-resolves within a few weeks or less.

One more quick and dirty tip: It’s important to note than dizziness in the elderly population is often due to multiple causes; this is referred to as “multi-factorial” in origin.

And there you have it: the 10 most common causes of dizziness.  As you can see, serious causes of dizziness are not that common. For most people, dizziness can be annoying to deal with, but is typically benign and self-resolving. 

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Photos of dizzy woman and figure sitting down courtesy of Shutterstock

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Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education. 

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