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When dizziness spells TROUBLE
How to avoid taking a spin

» What’s happening?

» Get steady

Dizzy do’s and don’ts

If you suffer from dizziness:

  • do be aware of your condition and use a cane for stability
  • do sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy
  • do work with your doctor to manage your symptoms
  • don’t use alcohol or tobacco, which can worsen your symptoms
  • don’t drive a car or operate heavy machinery until your doctor permits you to do so

Most people know what it’s like to stand up too quickly and feel a bit dizzy. After a few moments spent recovering equilibrium, everything feels OK. But for older adults, dizziness can be a more serious issue. Bouts of feeling unsteady, light-headed or disoriented can lead to falls that can result in a serious fracture, like a broken hip. Regular dizzy spells can also interfere with an active lifestyle.

What’s happening?

Dizziness occurs when your brain can’t properly process signals from your eyes, inner ear and sensory nerves in your skin, muscles and joints. When inner-ear disorders trigger dizziness, you may also experience hearing loss in one or both ears or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.

A variety of other conditions can make you feel dizzy, such as an improper medication dose, a drug interaction, a head injury, a brain disorder and an inner-ear infection or inflammation.

See your doctor if:

  • you’ve suffered a fall following a dizzy spell
  • your vision has become blurred
  • you experience recurrent or severe vertigo (a sense that the room is spinning or you’re moving when you’re actually still)
  • you feel panic or nausea when you’re dizzy
  • you have hearing loss

Get steady

Your physician can diagnose your condition, prescribe drugs to clear infections or make medication adjustments. He or she may also refer you to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) for a hearing and balance exam, blood tests and a test of the vestibular system, called an electronystagmogram. You may also need head and brain imaging studies.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your dizziness. Your doctor may recommend:

  • balance retraining exercises to treat inner-ear conditions and improve balance
  • counseling to deal with dizziness brought on by anxiety
  • medication to reduce fluid retention in the body
  • a noninvasive office procedure to move loose particles in your ear that trigger vertigo
  • medication to treat infection or inflammation

Most causes of dizziness aren’t life threatening, but you should treat the condition promptly to avoid accidents and injuries.


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