Dear Doctor, I keep having dizzy do’s!

Feeling dizzy and light headed is a horrible sensation and can be very worrying. Just one episode in public, can be enough to put you off venturing outside completely! It isn’t usually caused by anything serious in most people. So, I have come up with my list of the most common reasons. If this has been a problem for you, read on to find out what it could be and what you should do.

From what people tell me, the hotspots for these episodes seem to be in the middle of shopping centres, when standing up quickly, or in the shower.

Just imagine those three scenarios and you can probably think of some good causes yourself….

Just off the top of my head, I’m thinking… Blood pressure? Tiredness? Sugar levels? Dehydration?

I’m not prone to fainting thankfully but I have experienced the feeling, so I know how unpleasant it can be. Let’s use an example.

A few years ago, I was on a set of A&E night shifts, night four to be prescise. The previous night had been busy. I hadn’t eaten much when I got home in the morning and my sleep during the day wasn’t great. I got up around 5:30 pm. I thought I’d shower to wake up a bit before I eat and go back to work. Two minutes into the shower however, my head starts spinning, I felt really spaced out, really hot, and the corners of my vision started darkening. I’m thinking, oh crap I’m about to pass out in the shower!

My worst fear in that moment was not, what if I pass out and hit my head or seriously injure myself? It was, what if that meant I got taken from the shower to A&E, right to my workplace, mortifying! Anyway, I switched the shower to cold, slowly sat down and a few minutes later I felt a bit better.

So what caused it? Probably a combination of things, right? I was tired and I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for hours. Tiredness… dehydration… low sugar… add standing in a hot shower and it’s a recipe for a topple.

I think of it as, any time you have a dizzy episode, it’s because the brain’s having supply issues. The brain needs certain things in order to survive. It needs blood to carry oxygen and sugar.

Problems with any of these means, you are potentially going to get dizzy. Let’s quickly discuss them.

Blood flow can be affected by lots of things. For example, if you stand up too quickly and the blood doesn’t get to your brain fast enough. Or if you haven’t drank much, so you are dehydrated making your blood pressure low, meaning not enough blood to the brain. The opposite, high blood pressure can make you dizzy too. Even as obvious as, if someone grabs you around the neck and cuts off the blood supply, you will get dizzy!

Sugar levels can cause the brain to not have the energy it needs to work. So, if you haven’t fed yourself enough or if you have diabetes, you can get quite light headed when sugar levels drop.

Oxygen is another factor. Hyperventilating or panic attacks means you drop oxygen levels. Or anything that restricts your breathing, like asthma or choking. Also, low iron levels can cause you to feel faint or dizzy, as low iron means less oxygen overall being carried in the blood. That tends to come with tiredness and other features which we will talk about another day.

As you can figure out, any of these problems in a small dose equals dizzy or light headed. Big doses can equal big problems!

Other things… check you aren’t pregnant! If the room is spinning in a circle, especially when you move your head, that’s probably more likely an ear problem. If you notice headaches and vision changes or being extra clumsy when walking, then visit the doc to get checked out to rule out any other underlying problems.

So in conclusion, if you are having dizzy do’s my advice would be to think logically. Are you well rested, well fed, well watered? If you skipped breakfast and have been wandering around the shopping centre for hours then it can be normal to feel a bit dizzy. If sitting down for a few minutes, and getting some food or a drink sorts you out, then you probably have your answer!

If they are getting more frequent or severe, and they don’t seem to be linked to any logical explanation, then that’s the time to go see the GP.

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