Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Other terms for dizziness: vertigo, woozy, faint, light headed
What is dizziness?
Dizziness is a term used to describe when you are feeling woozy, or faint. Vertigo,
a symptom of dizziness, is the feeling that the room is spinning around you.
When people experience dizziness, it may be a symptom showing the balance mechanism
in your inner ear is not working properly.
- Many medications, treatments, and diseases can cause dizziness. It may also be a
result of injury to your ear.
- Dehydration may lead to feeling of lightheadedness especially when changing positions.
This dizziness symptom is due to low blood pressure.
- Certain physical conditions - such as orthostatic hypotension. Orthostatic hypotension
is often a result of a disease state, or dehydration may also cause dizziness symptoms.
- As you get older, or as a result of certain conditions, the central nervous system
has a more difficult time regulating blood pressure levels. When you change from
a lying to a standing position rapidly, you may feel "faint" or lightheaded, as
your blood pressure drops to a level below normal.
- Orthostatic hypotension may also occur if you are anemic, or dehydrated, as the
fluid volume levels in your body are low.
- Medications - If you are taking certain medications to control
your high blood pressure or heart rate, for example, these may cause your blood
pressure to become low.
Symptoms that are used to describe dizziness or are associated with dizziness:
- Most people notice dizziness symptoms when they change positions, or move their
- You might feel vertigo or the opposite of vertigo - that you are spinning. Some
people describe dizziness, as feeling a bit "woozy." Severe dizziness is the
fear that you may fall down when you stand up.
- Some people may lose their hearing, or their vision, which may be accompanied by
- Nausea, ringing in the ears, and vomiting may be associated with dizziness.
- Severe vomiting over a long period of time may cause dizziness symptoms.
- Dizziness may be a symptom or sign of a serious problem. Notify your doctor if you
experience any of the dizziness symptoms mentioned here.
How is dizziness diagnosed?
- Usually, your healthcare provider will first take a complete health history from
you. They will then examine your neurological system through conducting a physical
exam in their office. This may include looking in your eyes, watching you stand
or walk, and testing your strength. He or she will also look inside your inner ear,
to see if there is an infection.
- To distinguish vertigo from dizziness, your healthcare provider may turn your head
in different positions, usually from a sitting position, to a lying position, and
back again, as they try to elicit the same dizziness symptoms that you are describing.
- Your healthcare provider may suggest that you have x-rays, an MRI, or a CAT Scan
of your head. You may also be referred to a neurologist, who specializes in dizziness
Your healthcare provider may order some blood work to be drawn. The blood work will
show many things that could be causing your dizziness symptoms. These include anemia,
checking your blood electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and kidney function) as well
as to evaluate for dehydration.
Things you can do:
- It is important to notify your healthcare provider if you notice any dizziness,
or any change in the pattern of dizziness symptoms you are experiencing. Also,
notify your healthcare provider if you have any loss of vision, hearing, or if your
symptoms become more severe, and do not improve.
- If low blood pressure is a symptom contributing to your dizziness and
you are taking medications to control high blood pressure, talk with your doctor
about whether your medication may need to be adjusted.
- Drink 2-3 liters of fluid per day to prevent dehydration. This may include fruit
juices, water, non-caffeinated sodas and coffee, and non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol
and caffeine may cause dehydration, so these should be avoided. Always carry a "sipper"
cup filled with your favorite drinks.
- Change positions slowly to avoid vertigo and/or dizziness. Allow your body a chance
to adapt to the position change. For some people, lying down until the dizzy episode
passes may be the best solution.
- With moderate dizziness, walk slowly and often. Walk with assistance if the dizziness
- If you have vertigo, your doctor or a trained therapist may teach you exercises,
called "vestibular exercises," to try to get rid of your dizziness. Vertigo
improvement exercises involve you sitting down, and changing into different
positions. This may increase your dizziness at first, while you are performing these
movements, but should help to correct the vertigo. You may expect improvement in
- If you have Meneire's disease (a disease of the inner ear), treatment of this condition
- Limiting the amount of salt you eat in a day
- Prescription of anti-nausea
- Anti-vertigo medications
- And/or medication to help your body rid itself of salt and fluids (a diuretic).
The goal is to decrease the pressure of your inner ear, in an effort to control
- Depending on the cause of dizziness, vertigo and/or other symptoms it may last a
few days to a few months. It is important to follow all the instructions from your
- If your dizziness is a symptom of medications you have taken in the past, it
is important to avoid these in the future, if possible. Be sure that you tell each
of your health care providers about all of the medicines you are taking, including
over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal remedies. It is important to
avoid the use of drugs that may cause further damage the cells in your ear.
Drugs that may be prescribed by your doctor:
- There are many drugs that can be used to treat dizziness symptoms. These may include:
- These medications may help to decrease the feelings of unsteadiness or imbalance
that you may be feeling:
- Meclizine (Antivert®)
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®)
- Scopolamine patch.
- These medications may work to prevent the feeling of dizziness, or prevent nausea
and vomiting that may cause dizziness:
- Prochlorperazine (Compazine®)
- Promethazine (Phenergan®)
When to call your doctor or health care provider about dizziness symptoms:
- Develop any sudden severe ear pain.
- Temperature greater than 100.5 F (38 C).
- Unable to eat or drink for 24 hours or have signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth,
- Dark and decreased amount of urine, or
- Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
- Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
- If you have a sudden loss of vision, or if you lose your hearing.
- If you fall down, or lose consciousness as a symptom of your dizziness.
- If your dizziness symptoms worsen within 3 days of treatment.
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms of
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional
about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained
in this website about dizziness, vertigo and other medical conditions is meant to
be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.
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