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     Volume 4 Issue 37 | March 11, 2005 |

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Dizzy Spells

Dizziness is a feeling of faintness or light-headedness, making it difficult to maintain balance while standing or sitting.

Most causes of dizziness (light-headedness) are minor. It is important to differentiate simple dizziness from vertigo (a spinning sensation or the feeling that you or the room around you is moving). Vertigo often indicates an inner ear problem but it can also signify a problem with the cerebellum or the brainstem.

Serious disorders may cause light-headedness such as insufficient blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, such as can be caused by a rapid drop in blood pressure. Serious disorders that can cause light-headedness (usually in addition to other symptoms) include heart problems such as a valve disorder or heart attack, stroke and severe hypotension or shock.

Light-headedness is a fainting feeling that often accompanies the flu, common cold or dehydration. Light-headedness without other symptoms is usually not serious.

Most fainting spells are not dangerous, but if there is any question, call for medical help. Sudden loss of consciousness (vasovagal faint) happens more easily when a person is upright. A simple faint is rarely preceded by symptoms such as pain, pressure, constriction in the chest or shortness of breath -- but generalized weakness, nausea, tunnel vision and sweating may occur.

Dizziness can also be caused by a poorly functioning balance mechanism in the inner ear. This balance mechanism also helps control eye movements, so often the environment seems to be spinning around. Most dizziness and vertigo has no definite cause and is commonly attributed to a viral infection of the inner ear, especially in young, otherwise healthy people. However, vertigo may be a sign of stroke, multiple sclerosis, seizures or rarely, a degenerative neurological disorder. In such conditions, other symptoms and signs usually accompany the vertigo.

Common Causes
*severe pain
*low blood pressure
*getting blood drawn
*strenuous coughing
*straining during a bowel movement or bladder emptying
*standing up too quickly after lying down or sitting especially in older people
*pressure on the carotid sinus in the neck (a shirt collar may be too tight)
*various medications including anti-hypertensives
*heart beating too slow (below 30 times a minute) or too fast (around 200 times a minute)

*viral infection of the inner ear
*alcohol intoxication
*medications, especially tranquilizers, many heart drugs, anticonvulsants, aspirin, narcotics, sedatives, and others
*classical migraine or common migraine
*drug abuse and dependence
*drug allergies
*middle ear surgery or trauma
*tympanic membrane perforation
*ear diseases
*visual impairment
*neuro-degenerative illness
*multiple sclerosis
*brain tumor

Home Care
Follow prescribed treatment for the underlying cause.
The feeling of light-headedness upon standing is one of the most common causes of temporary blackout or faintness and becomes more frequent with increasing age. Avoid sudden changes in posture.

A persistent light-headed feeling without other symptoms is often due to anxiety, rather than a brain tumor or other hidden disease. Often people have to learn to live with this problem. If it is severe, some anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) can help treat light-headedness and dizziness.

Call your health care provider if
*There has been complete loss of consciousness.
*The room seems to spin around (vertigo).
*Dizziness is preventing daily activities.
*Medication is the suspected cause. Talk to your health care provider before taking the next dose of medication.
*Light-headedness lasts for more than three weeks.
*Other symptoms are also present, especially chest pain, numbness and tingling, or other serious symptoms.

Source: Yahoo

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