Resource Center

Symptom Spotlight

Understanding Dizziness:
Causes and Symptoms Explained

Dizziness is a seemingly innocuous sensation that can leave us disoriented, unsteady, and anxious. While a momentary bout of dizziness may be harmless, it’s essential to recognize that it can also be a sign of an underlying health issue. In many instances, dizziness arises from vertigo, a perception of body movement or surroundings. Its origins can be traced to central or peripheral factors, and unraveling the precise cause can pose challenges. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of dizziness, exploring its various causes and associated symptoms, and focus on some cardiovascular causes warrant exclusion.

 

 

What is Dizziness?

Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness, unsteadiness, or a false sensation of spinning or movement, even when you’re not moving. It can manifest in different ways, such as feeling woozy, off-balance, or as if the room is spinning around you. Dizziness may be accompanied by nausea, sweating, or a sense of impending fainting.

Dizziness and vertigo are frequently interchanged; however, it’s crucial to emphasize that there exists a notable difference between the two.

Vertigo: Vertigo is a type of dizziness characterized by a false sense of spinning or movement, even when stationary. It feels as if you or your surroundings are rotating or swaying, and it can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sweating, and difficulty maintaining balance. Vertigo is often related to problems in the inner ear, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis, or labyrinthitis.

 

Common Causes of Dizziness

  • Inner Ear Disorders: Conditions affecting the inner ear, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis, or Meniere’s disease, can disrupt the body’s balance and cause dizziness.
  • Low Blood Pressure: Sudden drops in blood pressure, especially upon standing up (orthostatic hypotension), can lead to dizziness.
  • Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake can cause a drop in blood volume, leading to dizziness
  • Anxiety and Stress: Emotional stress or anxiety can trigger dizziness through the body’s “fight or flight” response.
  • Medications: Some drugs, like certain blood pressure medications or sedatives, can cause dizziness as a side effect.
  • Heart rate and rhythm disorders can cause dizziness and a feeling of faintness or lightheadedness. In some cases, there may be a complete blackout. Further tests are essential to assess the heart rate and check for potential conduction issues affecting the heart’s electrical wiring. The heart has a complex system of wires and cables that transmit electrical stimuli to maintain its continuous beating. Issues known as heart block (of which there are a few varieties) can cause delays in electrical signals reaching their target and, therefore, a momentary pause in the heartbeat and a near or complete blackout. To understand this process better, visit our dedicated heartworks page from the menu.

 

 

In the video, we witness the intricate process of normal conduction signals and the interconnected wiring responsible for orchestrating our heartbeats. The electrical stimuli originate from the sinus node and navigate through a specialized tissue called the AV node, bridging the atria and ventricles. Subsequently, these signals travel down the left and right bundles of fibers. However, under certain circumstances like medical conditions or medication interactions, these signals may become compromised, leading to potential issues such as slowed or misfiring signals, culminating in various degrees of heart block. This disruption can result in near fainting or even blackouts, underscoring the importance of understanding and managing heart health.
 

Symptoms Associated with Dizziness

Aside from the sensation of spinning or lightheadedness, dizziness can come with other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling faint or on the verge of fainting
  • Blurred vision
  • Hearing disturbances or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue

 

When to Seek Medical Attention

    In most cases, dizziness is not a cause for alarm and resolves independently. However, there are situations when medical attention is necessary:

    • Severe or Sudden Onset: If dizziness is sudden, severe, or accompanied by a head injury, seek immediate medical care.

    • Prolonged Dizziness: If dizziness persists for an extended period or occurs frequently, consult a healthcare professional.

    • New or Worsening Symptoms: If dizziness is accompanied by slurred speech, numbness, weakness, or difficulty walking, it could indicate a more serious condition, and medical attention should be sought promptly.

    • Pre-existing Medical Conditions: If you have pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or neurological disorders, any new dizziness episodes should be evaluated by a doctor.

    Cardiac technologist connecting a patient to a 24-hour Holter monitor. This device aids in tracking heart rhythms and identifying potential irregularities for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment.

     

    Preliminary Investigations that may be useful

    If you are experiencing dizziness, your doctor may perform several tests to identify the underlying cause. Some of the preliminary cardiac tests they may choose to conduct include an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the electrical activity of your heart, a Holter monitor that continuously records your heart’s activity over 24 to 48 hours, and an echocardiogram to assess your heart’s structure and function. Additionally, prolonged monitoring or an implantable loop recorder might be used to capture intermittent arrhythmias. A brain CT or MRI scan may be recommended to rule out any brain-related issues. Furthermore, scans of the neck, specifically carotid arteries, might be conducted to assess blood flow. These tests help your doctor gain valuable insights into your condition, enabling them to determine the most appropriate course of action for managing and addressing your dizziness effectively.

     

    Conclusion

    Dizziness is a common and often transient sensation resulting from various factors. It is often not a cause for concern. It can be managed with lifestyle adjustments and self-care—however, persistent or severe dizziness warrants medical evaluation to determine its underlying cause. Listen to your body and seeking medical advice when necessary is essential. By understanding the potential causes and associated symptoms of dizziness, you can better navigate this discomfort and prioritize your well-being.

    About Us

    Prof. Peter Barlis - Editor

    Prof. Peter Barlis - Editor

    Thank you for visiting heartmatters.com! We aim to empower you with valuable, easy-to-understand heart health insights, cutting through jargon. Whether you aim to control your heart health, manage an existing condition, or enhance your knowledge of heart wellness, Heart Matters is your go-to guide to help you achieve your goals.

    Newsletter

    Subscribe for exclusive heart health resources, valuable tips, and the latest research updates.

    Top Selling Multipurpose WP Theme

    Empowering heart health

    Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to receive valuable insights, tips, and resources on heart health.

    Login

    other anti-anginals

    When first-line therapies for angina, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and nitrates, prove inadequate or are not well-tolerated, second-line therapies may be considered.
    Perhexiline is a unique medication that enhances the heart's ability to utilize fatty acids for energy, reducing its reliance on oxygen and lowering oxygen demand. This action helps improve blood flow and alleviates chest pain in some patients with refractory angina.
    Nicorandil is another second-line option with a dual mechanism of action. It opens potassium channels in smooth muscle cells, causing vasodilation and enhancing coronary blood flow. Additionally, nicorandil also stimulates nitric oxide release, further dilating blood vessels and reducing heart workload.
    Trimetazidine is an anti-ischemic agent that improves cardiac efficiency by enhancing glucose metabolism and shifting the heart's energy production to a more oxygen-efficient process. As second-line therapies, these medications offer alternative approaches for managing angina in individuals who do not respond adequately to first-line treatments or those experiencing side effects from other medications.

    lipid lowering therapies

    Lipid-lowering therapies play a critical role in managing coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition characterized by the narrowing of blood vessels that supply the heart. Among the most commonly discussed and debated classes of medications are statins, which effectively reduce cholesterol levels and are widely prescribed to lower the risk of cardiovascular events. Alongside statins, other medications like ezetimibe, fibrates, and niacin are also utilized to target specific aspects of lipid metabolism, such as cholesterol absorption, triglyceride levels, and raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Additionally, the introduction of medications that inhibit PCSK9, an enzyme involved in cholesterol metabolism, has provided a promising new approach to further lower LDL cholesterol levels. These PCSK9 inhibitors, such as Repatha (evolocumab), have shown significant efficacy in reducing LDL cholesterol levels in patients with CAD, especially for those who may not respond well to traditional therapies.

    Nitrates

    Nitrates are widely used to treat angina and provide quick relief for chest pain. Commonly available in the form of sublingual sprays or tablets, patches, and long-acting tablets, nitrates work by dilating blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow and reduced resistance. This dilation eases the heart's workload, leading to a decreased demand for oxygen and prompt alleviation of angina symptoms. Sublingual nitrates act rapidly and are often used to provide immediate relief during angina attacks, while patches and long-acting tablets are employed for preventive purposes. However, nitrates may cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and flushing, which usually subside over time.

    calcium channel blockers

    Calcium channel blockers, including amlodipine, felodipine, cardizem (diltiazem), and verapamil, are commonly prescribed for the treatment of angina. These medications work by inhibiting the influx of calcium into the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels, leading to their relaxation. As a result, blood vessels widen, promoting improved blood flow and reduced blood pressure. In the context of angina, this relaxation decreases the heart's workload, lowering the demand for oxygen and alleviating chest pain. Calcium channel blockers offer a valuable treatment option for individuals with angina, but it is essential to be aware of potential side effects, which may include headaches, dizziness, flushing, and ankle swelling.

    Beta blockers

    Beta blockers, such as metoprolol, propranolol, atenolol, carvedilol, and bisoprolol, play a crucial role in treating angina. By blocking certain receptors in the heart, they effectively reduce heart rate and the force of contraction, thereby easing the heart's workload. This mechanism of action leads to a decreased demand for oxygen, making beta blockers highly effective in relieving chest pain associated with angina. As with any medication, it's important to consider potential side effects, including tiredness, worsened asthma, erectile dysfunction in some males, and more vivid dreams during sleep. Consult your healthcare provider to determine the suitability of beta blockers for managing your angina and overall heart health.

    Anti-platelet Medications

    Anti-platelet medications play a crucial role in preventing blood clot formation, reducing the risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Among the widely used anti-platelet drugs are aspirin, clopidogrel, and ticagrelor.

    Aspirin: This well-known medication inhibits platelet activation, making it less likely for platelets to stick together and form clots. Aspirin is commonly used for primary and secondary prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

    Clopidogrel: As a potent anti-platelet agent, clopidogrel works by blocking specific receptors on platelets, preventing them from aggregating. It is often prescribed to patients with acute coronary syndrome, those undergoing stent procedures, and for some cases of peripheral arterial disease.

    Ticagrelor: Ticagrelor is another effective anti-platelet drug that works by inhibiting platelet activation. It is used in acute coronary syndrome, often given alongside aspirin to reduce the risk of heart-related events.