Dizziness is not a pleasant sensation. Episodes can leave you feeling unbalanced, faint, and sick to your stomach. Dizziness also increases your risk of falling.

But most episodes of dizziness by themselves are not life-threatening.

Fast movements can cause blood pressure to drop. Long stretches between meals can cause a dip in blood sugar. Occasionally, feeling dizzy, weak, or woozy are symptoms of other conditions and should be taken seriously.

Many people find the condition unpleasant. In fact, four out of 10 people call their doctors for check-ups because they feel dizzy.

So, what causes dizziness?

People who complain about dizziness or vertigo, describe the experience as feeling like the room is spinning. The sensation is so strong people will hang on to furniture or lie down until the sensation stops.

Messages sent to the brain from the inner ear, eyes, muscles, or joints can trigger the condition. People feel dizzy when they stand up too quickly, skip lunch, or experience stress or anxiety.

But there are other causes of dizziness, too.

  • Infections that affect the nerves or fluid in the inner ear
  • Allergies or illnesses
  • Anemia or heavy menstrual periods
  • Chronic health conditions such as migraine headache, poor circulation, changes in blood pressure, changes in glycemic levels, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Medications, especially those that affect levels of iron
  • Aging

The sensation of dizziness can also be caused by environmental factors such as overheating, stress, dehydration, or anxiety. Many of us have seen wedding videos of the best men or bridesmaids swaying as dizziness overtakes them.

When should you see your doctor?

When dizziness is combined with the symptoms of heart attack or stroke, call your healthcare provider or 9-1-1, right away.

Signs to watch for include vision loss, double vision, numbness, slurred speech, sudden or a severe headache, vomiting, fever; or shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, arm, back, neck or jaw. When any of these symptoms combine with dizziness seek immediate medical attention.

If your dizziness interferes with your ability to live a normal life or if your episodes last longer than two weeks, contact your healthcare provider.

Physical therapy can help people suffering from vertigo.

Physical therapists use several hands-on manipulation methods to relieve dizziness. Some treatments move crystals in a person’s inner ear that cause the condition to a different location to stop the spinning. Depending on a patient’s diagnosis, Bone & Joint’s physical therapists may recommend at-home therapeutic exercises to reduce the severity of symptoms.

It’s important to work with a licensed physical therapist to determine the best type of exercise. Using the wrong movements could make your symptoms and the condition worse.

If you experience dizziness, take care not to fall.

Falling is a major health risk when you are dizzy. If you have frequent episodes, there are precautions you can take in advance to stay safe.

  • Stand up or change positions gradually. Scoot to the edge of the bed or chair and rise slowly. Always hold on the arm of the chair or the wall when rising.
  • Wear shoes with low heels and good tread.
  • Keep your walkways, rooms, and hallways well lit. Use night lights after dark.
  • Clear cords, stools, and other items from walking areas.
  • Remove loose rugs.
  • Install and use handgrips and handrails in bathrooms and stairways.
  • If you suffer from severe dizziness, use a cane or walker for safety.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider and your pharmacist about your medications and take them according to directions.
  • Practice Tai Chi or Yoga to increase balance, flexibility, and stability.
  • Visit a physical therapist for balance exercises and training.

While feeling dizzy may be more inconvenient than serious, pay attention when you feel off-balance or lightheaded. Play it safe and don’t fall.

If you’ve had several episodes during a week, call your medical provider for an appointment.

If the symptoms are combined with vision problems, vomiting, inability to move, or pain in the chest, back, neck, or jaw. Call 9-1-1!