Feeling Dizzy? It Could Be Heart-Related...

Feeling Dizzy? It Could Be Heart-Related...

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When we were children, we'd spin for hours, trying to get as dizzy as possible! But in adulthood, it can be an irritating and persistent condition that causes significant distress. 

Although dizziness is not normally associated with a serious condition, it should be investigated by a doctor if it is particularly annoying or occurs often, to find and treat any underlying cause.

 

Dizzy vs Lightheaded? 

Dizziness can be described in a lot of ways - for some it is a feeling of lightheadedness, for others it is the sensation that the world is spinning around them. It may also make you feel like you are off-balance, like you’re on a boat or in a spinning teacups ride! You may also feel like you’re unsteady on your feet, and about to fall over.

When you start to feel dizzy, try and take a note of any accompanying symptoms such as nausea, headaches or fainting. Ask yourself, is it worse when you’re sitting, or worse when you’re standing? How long does it last?

 

Why Am I Dizzy? 

There are many causes of dizziness. These include:

  • Low blood sugar
     
  • Low blood pressure - known as hypotension
     
  • Labyrinthitis - an inner ear disorder where your nerves cannot relay your head positioning
     
  • Heart disease - including heart attack
     
  • Medications - including pain and blood pressure drugs as well as some antibiotics
     
  • Dehydration - lack of enough water to drink, or losing water through diarrhoea/vomiting
     
  • Ageing
     
  • Hyperventilation - Very rapid or deep breathing
     
  • Pregnancy
     
  • Anxiety, stress or depression
     
  • Bleeding - Losing blood through a heavy menstrual period, or some other blood loss

 

anxiety-stress-depression-dizziness

Anxiety, stress and depression can cause dizziness 

 

Treating Dizziness

The treatment for dizziness depends on the underlying condition. Since there are so many different causes, there is no one treatment to cure all types of dizziness!

You should seek help from your GP if you are experiencing dizziness regularly or have any associated symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Sickness

Dizziness associated with chest pain could indicate an underlying condition such as aortic stenosis, heart block or atrial fibrillation. If you're experiencing moderate to severe symptoms, you should call NHS 111 or 999 respectively, to seek urgent medical advice. 

 

I'm Dizzy: What Can My GP Do To Help?

The first thing your GP will likely do, is ask a few questions (to narrow down the long list of potential causes of your dizziness). They might also perform a basic medical examination. Questions will likely include:

 

What Do You Mean By "Dizzy"?

Your GP will want to know what exactly you mean by dizziness - whether it is lightheadedness or a vertigo-like sensation:

  • Lightheadedness is a feeling that you are about to pass out or faint, and often improves when lying down.
  • Vertigo is the sensation that your surroundings are whirling around you when there is no actual movement and you may feel unstable or nauseous, and may fall.

 

What Were You Doing, When You Felt Dizzy? 

Your GP will also want to know what happened before you felt dizzy.

If you felt dizzy after moving to a sitting or standing position from lying down and the dizziness clears quite quickly, this may be orthostatic hypotension, caused by a temporary drop in blood supply to the brain after a change in head position.

Dizziness that occurs when lying down could be due to a viral illness, and should pass after a week or so.

 

General Health & Medications

Your doctor will want to know if the dizziness came on after an illness, if it happens at certain times or before/after certain activities, and how long it lasts.  If you’re taking any medication, whether it’s prescribed, over the counter, a recreational drug or a herbal aid, please tell your doctor as a change in your medication may help.

 

Dizziness In Pregnancy

Dizziness is a common symptom in pregnancy, because of the hormones released as the baby develops. These hormones cause the blood vessels to dilate, meaning blood pressure can drop and make you feel dizzy.

You may also find that your sugar levels drop more frequently when pregnant, which can make you feel dizzy; women who are already anaemic or who have varicose veins are particularly susceptible to this.

Dizziness is most common in the first trimester, but can occur at any point throughout pregnancy; as the baby grows, it may press on blood vessels and restrict their flow rate, inducing dizziness.

 

dizziness-in-pregnancy

Dizziness is a common symptom in pregnancy

 

Dizziness In The Elderly 

Dizziness occurs more in older people due to a variety of reasons. Older people are more likely to have atherosclerosis developed over a lifetime, which hardens the arteries and makes them less able to respond to changes in positioning requiring a change in blood pressure.

Elderly people can also have a lower capacity for exercise, and may have neuropathy (a dysfunction of the nerves controlling blood pressure).

 

Managing Dizziness

You may wish to try and treat your dizziness at home - this can be done by:

  • Drinking plenty of water
     
  • Getting plenty of rest and eating regular meals
     
  • Standing up slowly to minimise dizziness associated with position changes
     
  • Securing anything on the floor that may cause a fall when you are dizzy

 

Some common treatments for dizziness your doctor may provide include:

  • IV fluids for rehydration
     
  • Medications to control a fever or infection
     
  • Changes in your current medication
    • If you're currently taking any medications, these may be contributing to your dizziness
       
  • Corrections of abnormal blood chemistry
    • Such as low iron levels, as seen in anaemia
       
  • Oxygen supply

 

Most causes of dizziness are harmless and will go away on their own. However, sometimes dizziness can be a symptom of a serious underlying disease and seeking help from a GP or private GP (such as one at LDC) can investigate this further. Simply book in at any of our 9 central London clinics, and our highly experienced private GPs will be happy to advise. 

 By Katie Hodgkinson

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