Dizziness

Overview

Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness. There are many possible causes for dizziness. For cancer patients, the cause is often nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Treatment of nausea and vomiting with antiemetic drugs may help relieve dizziness.

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is a sensation often described as lightheadedness or feeling woozy. Most people notice dizziness when they change positions or move their heads. You might feel like the room is spinning around you, or that you are spinning, a sensation known as vertigo. You may also feel “faint” or dizzy when you rapidly change from lying or sitting to a standing position. Dizziness may be a fleeting sensation or the prolonged symptom of a more serious health problem.

What causes dizziness?

There are many possible causes for dizziness, some are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Dehydration
  • Medications to control high blood pressure or heart rate
  • Problems with the balance mechanism in your inner ear
  • Low blood pressure when you stand up (orthostatic hypotension)

Why is dizziness important?

Dizziness may be a sign of a more serious imbalance or problem.  You should contact your doctor and carefully describe your symptoms so that the cause can be identified and managed.

How is dizziness treated?

Some medications may help to decrease the feelings of unsteadiness or imbalance associated with dizziness.  These medications are also known as “motion sickness” drugs. Examples include:

  • Meclizine (Antivert®)
  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®)
  • Scopolamine patch

Prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy through the use of antiemetic drugs may also decrease feelings of dizziness. Go to the Nausea and Vomiting section for more information on treating this side effect.

What else can I do?

Try these tips for managing dizziness:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Try for 2-3 liters of fluid per day in the form of fruit juices, water, non-caffeinated drinks and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Change positions slowly. 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.
  • Avoid medications that have caused dizziness in the past.
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