Everyone feels a bit dizzy or lightheaded every once in a while, but it’s usually something that passes quickly.
Maybe it’s just that you didn’t eat enough, drink enough or it’s too hot, so a little food, drink, and a moment in the shade and you’re back to normal in no time.
But sometimes that lightheaded feeling points to underlying problems that are far more unsettling.
Forewarned is forearmed as they say, and it pays to understand these five more dangerous causes of lightheadedness and dizziness.
Your experience of lightheadedness and dizziness can be anything from mild to severe. When you’re lightheaded it feels as if you might faint, and when you’re dizzy the room seems to spin.
Common causes include:
1. Dehydration: dehydration can lower your blood pressure, raise your body temperature and increase your breathing rate. The net result of this is that the blood vessels in your brain dilate, and there’s not enough blood to fill them up.
You might get feel lightheaded after intense exercise, because more of your blood gets sent to the muscles you’ve just worked and less of it goes to your brain. A lie down and a drink of water should help to get you back to normal quickly.
2. Low blood pressure: there are a whole host of things that can cause low blood pressure, and you’ll need to know which one applies to you before you can get rid of your dizziness.
Resting in bed for too long, pregnancy, dehydration, alcohol, diuretics, blood pressure medication, antipsychotic drugs, low heart rate, an underactive thyroid, and low blood sugar (among others) are all potential causes, so it’s best to talk to your doctor to get to the root of the problem.
3. Prescription Drugs: The US Food and Drug Administration is responsible for approving drugs. As a general principle it will only accept drugs if their benefits outweigh their side effects (and if they actually work!)
Dizziness is one of the non-life-threatening side effects that they think most people can live with, so you’ll see it listed among the effects of many commonly sold drugs.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, pointed to anti-convulsants, blood pressure medication, antihistamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-inflammatories as causes.
If you have to take any of these drugs then you’re probably going to experience dizziness, so be extra vigilant to avoid injury, or look for better alternatives.
4. Low blood sugar: your body turns glucose into glycogen, which is the fuel that your brain runs on. If that fuel gets too low then your brain lets you know about it, which is why you can suddenly feel super hungry and almost painfully desperate for food. This lack of blood sugar can also be the reason behind mood swings, low energy, shaking, sweating, confusion and blurred vision. Anytime you feel like this, reach for some fruit, a bowl of oats, or some wholegrain bread to give your mind and body the glucose they crave.
5. Stroke: American Family Physician says that this one is easy for a doctor to diagnose when you are at the hospital, because it’s also accompanied by other neurological symptoms. The American Stroke Association advises you to look for facial drooping on one side by checking that your smile is even, and to check for arm weakness by raising both. If either of them drifts downwards then it could be a sign of stroke. Slurred speech is a giveaway, and you can check this by speaking out loud either from memory or by reading some tricky sentences.