Dizziness and nausea are not uncommon complaints. They often occur together. If they are serious at all, you will want to seek medical advice. There are many causes for these symptoms, although most aren’t serious. They do create an uneasy feeling that can interfere with your day.
Dizziness is feeling lightheaded. Vertigo, often listed as a type of dizziness, actually makes it feel like the room is spinning around you. These feelings are often accompanied by a sick feeling, or nausea, like you are about to vomit.
If you experience dizziness and nausea, you may also experience other symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath, faintness or sweating. You may feel like you’re about to lose your balance, or feel a weakness that can be accompanied by a fast or irregular heartbeat or blurry vision. While some people only feel nauseous, some people do actually vomit.
Dizziness and Nausea – Causes
- Motion Sickness
This is a common dizziness cause, and it is often accompanied by nausea and sometimes by vomiting. Motion sickness is a normal reaction to movement of the head. Symptoms may begin with pale skin, then yawning, restlessness and sweating. These are accompanied by drowsiness, fatigue and an upset stomach.
Motion sickness is caused by head movement imbalance, inner ear stimulation, visual stimulation or other sensory disturbances. This may occur to people of any age. If you experience migraines, you are more likely to have dizziness.
Your physician can treat your motion sickness with migraine medications, antihistamines and sedatives. You can prevent it by interventions of behavior, like avoiding travel on ships, sitting in the front seat of cars and remaining outside any confined spaces.
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
This type of dizziness is the cause of about 20% of all dizziness cases. It is seen more commonly in older people. You may feel light-headed, with an imbalanced feeling and sometimes with nausea.
BPPV usually presents itself if you change the position of your head, like you do when you roll out of bed in the morning. Bending over a sink may also give you these symptoms. You may tip your head to the unaffected side to relieve the spinning sensation. This symptom occurs intermittently, and can last for weeks at a time. It can be debilitating.
Most BPPV cases do not have a direct cause, but possible reasons for BPPV include vestibular neuritis, inner ear problems, migraines, whiplash and head trauma. The crystals of the inner ear move out of their normal position when you have BPPV. They float to the canal between the ears, which causes the spinning sensation. Maneuvers can be taught by an ENT specialist that can help you relieve the symptoms.
Some cases of BPPV get better with no treatment at all. If you have it, you should not make sudden movements that bring on the spinning sensation. Get up slowly and use two pillows when you sleep.
- Meniere’s Disease
This disorder of the inner ear leads to episodes of vertigo. It can also cause variable hearing loss, pressure and fullness in one ear only, ringing in your ears, nausea and sometimes vomiting. The attacks can last for hours and can lead to your feeling exhausted.
During attacks, your eyes move, with greater than usual sensitivity to visual stimuli. These attacks may be severe or mild and can even cause falls. Attacks sometimes come in clusters, followed by long periods with no attacks. The condition usually starts in one ear, but it may involve the other ear later.
Meniere’s precise cause is not known. Possibilities include hereditary factors, migraine, allergies, inner ear infections and head trauma.
No specific treatment plan exists for Meniere’s disease, although medications including lorazepam may help in controlling symptoms. During attacks of dizziness, you are advised to lie flat and remain still. Focusing your eyes on one object will help you until the end of the episode. Be sure you don’t get right back up quickly after an attack, or take anything by mouth, until the dizziness effects have worn off.
- Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA)
These are neurological conditions that involve decreased blood supply heading to your brain. This leads to dizziness. These attacks generally are sudden in their onset, but the length of attacks differs from one patient to the next. TIAs, in addition, only last for a short period, and strokes are longer lasting.
Accompanying symptoms of these attacks include numbness around your lips, hearing unusual noises, speech changes, numbness, loss of hearing, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, unsteadiness, weakness and visual changes.
Risk factors that could play a role in the blood supply blockage include diabetes, heart disease, family history, advanced age, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Diagnosing TIAs and strokes depends on lab analysis and the clinical judgment of the physician in charge. Treatment may include medications to control abnormalities in heart rate, medicines for lowering blood cholesterol, anticoagulants and blood thinners.
- Pressure Sensitivity
Dizziness and nausea can be brought on by a fluctuating of the pressure outside or inside the ears. Straining while having a bowel movement can change the inner ear pressure and lead to dizziness.
If you fly in a plane or scuba dive, the changes in the pressure in your middle ear can cause dizziness. You may be able to clear out one ear, but usually not both.
The treatment of pressure sensitivity depends on what caused it. Sometimes medical or even surgical treatment is required. If you are sensitive to pressure, wearing ear plugs will help you in avoiding the sensation of pressure fluctuations.
This inflammation in the labyrinth occurs when infection affects both the branches of your vestibulo-cochlear nerve. This can result in dizziness, vertigo or hearing changes.
- Cervical Vertigo
This term refers to dizziness that is associated with specific postures of the neck. It is more associated with the neck than the ears. For this reason, your dizziness, if you have this type of vertigo, may not include other symptoms like ear pain or disturbances in hearing. This makes it more difficult to diagnose. This medical issue is more common in adults between the ages of 30 and 5o, and more common in women than men.
Some cervical vertigo causes include vertebral artery compression, abnormal input in sensory receptors in the neck, other neck trauma or migraines. The diagnosis is generally made after other potential causes are ruled out by lab work like radiographic scans.
Viral and Bacterial Infections
Infections of the inner ear that cause labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis are generally viral, not bacterial. The symptoms are sometimes similar, but the treatments are quite different. Proper diagnosis is essential to proper treatment.
If you have a severe case of labyrinthitis, the bacteria that have already infected your middle ear may produce toxins that invade your inner ear. Once there, they may inflame your vestibular system, the cochlea, or both. Serious labyrinthitis is frequently the result of untreated, chronic infections of the middle ear, which are characterized by mild or subtle symptoms.
A less common type of infection, suppurative labyrinthitis occurs when bacterial organisms invade your labyrinth. Infection may originate in the cerebrospinal fluid or middle ear, resulting from bacterial meningitis.
Other Causes of Dizziness & Nausea
- High Blood Pressure
Some people have no symptoms of high blood pressure, but it can be associated with chest pain, neck pain, dizziness and nausea. Risk factors include diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol.
Treating high blood pressure involves taking helpful medications and making modifications to your lifestyle, including more exercise and a healthy diet.
- Low Blood Pressure
Factors that cause blood pressure drops can also cause dizziness, sweating, weakness, nausea & vomiting, chest pains and shortness of breath.
Common things that cause low blood pressure include some medications, pregnancy, intake of alcohol, heat exhaustion, dehydration, bleeding and anemia. Treatment depends on the precise cause, and it will generally provide relief from the symptoms.
If you breathe too swiftly, it can cause dizziness and nausea. It may occur due to emotional stress and is recognizable by a tingling sensation in the mouth, hands and feet. A carbon dioxide level decrease produces the symptoms. Treatment will involve having someone encourage you to relax and calm down.
High or low levels of blood sugar can cause dizziness, sweating, body weakness, fainting and nausea. They are brought about by a lack of control over your blood sugar if you’re a diabetic. They may be related to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, poor diet and genetic factors.
Treatment for diabetes includes controlling your levels of blood sugar, using proper exercise and diet, as well as medications.
Tumors that grow near the brain or ear may lead to dizziness. The symptoms include hearing issues, imbalance, tinnitus and nausea. The diagnosis is dependent on a lab workup and clinical assessment, which may include brain scans. Treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, which may require surgery to remove.
- Early Pregnancy
Women often experience dizziness when they are in their early weeks of pregnancy. Nausea is also experienced often. These are generally accompanied by moodiness, a missed period and tiredness. The diagnosis is confirmed with a pregnancy test. There is no treatment needed unless you have severe symptoms.
In summary, nausea often accompanies dizziness, and people of all ages may experience them. Most cases clear up themselves, but in other cases, the cause is not known. If you experience symptoms like breathing difficulties or chest pains accompanying your dizziness, seek medical help. Consulting with your physician is the only way to obtain a proper diagnosis and effective treatments.