Dizzy spells may point to a bigger problem

Sometimes you feel lightheaded after suddenly standing up or after a long time under the sun. Dr Fiona Mutesi Magololo, a general physician, says dizziness can be defined in four different ways. 

“Light-headedness, which is a vague description that would mean all the three but it would just be one of the things patients say they feel, Presyncope to mean when one feels they are almost fainting or blacking-out but they do not, Vertigo, which is a sense of motion or things around you moving but you are not and it can happen when you are seated. Disequilibrium is a feeling of an impending fall and usually the patient needs support to move, otherwise they will fall.”

Dr Franklin Wasswa, a general physician, says when someone complains of dizziness, doctors base on the symptoms to find the cause.

 “We take some time asking the patient when it happens, the activity they are engaged in, and how long it lasts. If it lasts longer, it could be more of vertigo and less of presyncope, which lasts just seconds and will be more of a blood supply problem to the brain that is momentary,” he says.
Dr Magololo explains that vertigo is caused by an inner ear problem. “The ear has a structure called a semicircular canal and when one moves, the fluid within moves the hairs that are located in this spiral structure. These tell the brain the position of your head relative to your body,” she says.

She adds that if there is a problem with the position of these hairs, it will give a wrong feedback to the brain on position which causes a common problem called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Nonetheless, she says, dizziness will be brought on by several other things other than vertigo. 

Any medicine that makes you sleepy will cause dizziness such as common cough and flu drugs. “Any drug that works on the brain such as alcohol, sleeping aids, anti-epileptic drugs as well as drugs that treat several heart conditions are known to cause dizziness. That is because they may reduce the function of the brain giving you presyncope (pre-fainting feeling),” Dr Wasswa explains. 

Anything that reduces the amount of blood to the brain will also give you a pre-fainting/presyncope feeling. “The culprits include anaemia, dehydration, stroke and a weak or sick heart that is not pumping blood sufficiently to supply the brain,” Dr Magololo says.

Low blood pressure
A person with abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension) can also suffer dizziness. “This usually happens when they are getting up from lying down to a sitting or standing position. There are several reasons why one may have this condition and these include medications, pregnancy, or an infection,” Dr Magololo explains.

She adds that it is advisable for one to sit a bit after waking up because the sudden transit from lying to a standing position causes dizziness. “The same can be experienced when one suddenly stands up from a sitting position. This is because your blood may not travel as fast to your brain,” she adds.
Visual disorders
These can also cause one to have a feeling of disorientation. “Since our brains have a connection to all joints which helps with getting feedback of their location, if you suffer any visual disorder, it may cause dizziness because there is a disconnect in how signals are sent or received,” Dr Wasswa says.
While coffee has its benefits, drinking too much of it will make one feel dizzy. “Caffeine is a stimulant, and drinks containing it are diuretics. As such, they increase your chances of getting dehydrated,” Dr Magololo explains.

In cases of panic and anxiety, people breathe faster than usual, which is called hyperventilation. “It may more often than not leave someone breathless and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, which affects the blood pH levels, making them higher than normal. As a result, blood vessels will constrict, cutting back on blood supply, hence dizziness,” Dr Wasswa shares.

In conclusion, both Dr Wasswa and Dr Magololo say in case you experience recurrent dizzy spells, it is best to visit your doctor for a general check-up so that medication is offered in case of anything serious.

● Hydration is one way to rule out dizziness since dehydration also affects one’s blood volume. 
●Taking regular supplements or good iron nutritious foods is also advisable if one is at risk of anaemia. 
●Dr Franklin Wasswa, a general physician, advises that you read every drug’s adverse effects or ask your doctor before taking any medications. 
“If there is dizziness as a side effect, take them with precaution,” he says.