Are you feeling woozy today? Do you feel that you are losing control because you feel that the world around you is moving in up and down and in circles? Are you about to throw up at any moment because of the intense giddiness? Or you feel that your head is about the break open because of the excruciating headache that you are presently having? All of these questions are all familiar, and for sure, nobody is a stranger to these unpleasant feelings. However, quite common as they are, you can control and fight back, and not allow dizziness and headaches tobe the masters of your life. Instead, take it easy, relax for a while, as we will explore the different treatments for these annoying and debilitating conditions.
What Are Dizziness And Headaches?
In putting up a fight with the best and successful outcome, it is of utmost importance to know the enemy well first. Whether you are getting woozy and having the pain in your head again, defining them is always subjective. That simply means, they are, as they are, as described. When one will say that “I feel dizzy” or “I am having a headache right now”, that is what the patient is feeling at that moment, and should not be given a doubt, unless, if they malinger and intentionally act things out.
First things first, let’s tackle dizziness. Dizziness, as mentioned, is a subjective assessment. However, it can be categorized into three different distinct types. These are vertigo, disequilibrium, and presyncope.
Vertigo is when you feel that your surrounding is moving or spinning around you. This is usually felt after spinning yourself after enjoying a merry-go-round spin ride. This often accompanied by vomiting. Other symptoms that patients report include sound and light irritability and blurred visual changes. Clinical manifestations observed by an examiner include excessive perspiration, gait and balance difficulties and nystagmus, which a rapid, uncontrollable, involuntary, jerky eye movements.
Disequilibrium, on the other hand, is the loss of balance and stability. Equilibrioception or the sense of balance is severely altered that person often experiences falls and slips. However, it should be noted that despite of the severity of the symptom involved, vomiting is not a part of this condition.
Presyncope is the sensation of fainting. Oftentimes called as light-headedness, actual fainting does not occur. The person still retains some level of consciousness. Presyncope serves as a tip-off sign that the person is about to faint. Lack of cerebral oxygen perfusion is the cause of light-headedness because of poor blood circulation towards the brain due to partial obstruction, circulatory problems or vagus nerve stimulation. If not corrected immediately, fainting can occur.
Now that we had learned the various categories of dizziness, let us now learn more about headaches. Headaches are simply defined as pain felt on the upper cephalic or peri-coronal area of the head. Just like dizziness, it is always a subjective symptom, as it can only be felt by the person having it.
Headaches can be described in a more detailed format. Examiners want to get more comprehensive data on the intensity, duration, quality and frequency.
The intensity can be described as mild, moderate, severe and very severe. By using the Wong-Baker’s Pain scale, pain can be quantified from 0 to 10. 0 equates to no pain, while 10 is interpreted as very severe pain.
To assess for duration, patients are asked how long the pain had lasted ranging from a few seconds, minutes, hours and even days.
Quality of pain, on the other hand, can be described as throbbing, piercing, vise-like, squeezing, compressing and the like.
Frequency gives examiners an idea on how often the pain occurs. The examiner asks the patient on how frequently the pain shows up. Is it intermittent, recurrent, or benign?
What Causes Dizziness And Headaches?
Both dizziness and headaches can either be idiopathic in nature or are direct results from an existing condition. They are not diseases by themselves but they do tell the person having it, as well as attending healthcare providers that something is not right.
Patients having the following disease processes have either vertigo or disequilibrium or both, as one of their main clinical manifestations. These are Otitis media, Otitis interna, which is often called as Vestibular neuritis or Labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV, and Acoustic neuroma or Vestibular Schwannoma. Perhaps, the most common cause of vertigo and disequilibrium that a lot of people are familiar with is Kinetosis, which is the medical term for Motion sickness or Travel Sickness. Kinetosis also includes Space sickness or Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS), which is directly associated during space travel.
Problems with blood circulation and pathologic conditions of the heart both lessen the amount of oxygen being delivered towards the brain. A great amount of oxygen is needed by the brain for its normal functioning, and any drastic changes can trigger light-headedness, as the brain is very sensitive to abrupt oxygen level alterations. That is why it is expected for patients to feel woozy and unsteady at times when they have any of the following conditions: hypertension, hypotension, including orthostatic hypotension, coronary artery diseases such as arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, transient ischemic attacks or TIA, mild carbon monoxide poisoning, anemia and anatomical and physiological anomalies within the heart. Overwhelming stress such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional duress can bring down blood pressure levels as the vagus nerve is unintentionally activated during these highly stressful events.
For those undergoing long-term medical therapy, certain drugs can induce dizziness because of their modes of action and unexpected side effects. For patients taking prescription drugs, as well as for those who are attending the needs of patients undergoing prolonged drug therapy, expect some levels of dizziness from the following medications. To name a few, here are some examples. These are anti-hypertensive drugs, anti depressants, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, sedative-hypnotics, aminoglycosides, salicylates, anticonvulsants and nitroglycerin.
Prohibited drugs such as cocaine or often called as “crack” or “coke” as its street names, as well as recreational beverages especially alcohol can make its consumers experience some degree of giddiness.
Other causes of dizziness and light-headedness include hypoglycemia, dehydration, mild head trauma such as a concussion and excessive exposure to hot air temperatures.
Pathologic nervous system disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome II or Herpes zoster oticus had been known reported in causing dizziness.
Changes in hormonal levels such as Addison’s disease (inadequate steroid hormone production), Hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone level), Diabetes Mellitus (high blood glucose secondary to poor insulin production), pregnancy, and menopause can modify spatial orientation and perception.
Pain, just like dizziness, may indicate the presence of physiologic or even a psychiatric problem. In fact according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-2) by the International Headache Society, headaches are generally categorized into Primary and Secondary Headaches.
Primary headaches are cryptogenic. The cause is not well-established and remains a gray-area for researchers and experts. According to the ICHD-2, tension-type headaches, cluster headaches and migraines, as well as, Trigeminal Neuralgia or Fothergill’s disease are categorized as primary headaches due to their sudden onset and ambiguous nature.
Secondary headaches, unlike the primary headachess, are direct consequences arising from a known and well-established cause. Severe headaches may result from high blood pressure or hypertension, stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), bleeding and blood clot formation within the cranium, blood vessel aneurysms, glaucoma, post-operation headache resulting from dialysis and craniotomy, abnormal growths or tumors within the brain or cranial vault, abnormal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure levels and from endocrine abnormalities such as hypothyroidism.
Secondary headaches can also result from unhealthy habits. Protracted fasting, long-term analgesic therapy and alcohol consumption should be avoided as these practices can trigger excruciating headaches as well.
Headaches may be psychiatric in nature, rather than physiologic. Somatization, psychosomatic disorders, as well as tactile hallucinations can create pain that feels real for people having psychiatric disturbances.
What Are The Treatments For Dizziness And Headaches?
Now that we had discovered that dizziness and headaches culminate from an existing condition, management is therefore focused on the cause of the problem. However, if the triggering factor is idiopathic such as in the case of BPPV and Primary headaches, palliative and preventive measures are taken to relieve and lessen the gravity of the symptoms involved.
For infection of the middle and inner ear, antibiotics are the main methods of management. To neutralize vertigo and disequilibrium, medications are prescribed and given. These are Promethazine hydrochloride (Phenergan) and Meclizine hydrochloride (Antivert). Diphenhyramine (Benadryl), an antihistamine and Diazepam (Valium), a benzodiazepine, are also helpful as they help patients to relax well during vertigo attacks.
If warning signs of presyncope or light-headedness occur, encourage the person to lie down in a supine position with both legs elevated. This position is called the Reverse Trendelenburg or the Reverse T-position. This brings more blood from the legs towards the upper extremities and the head. If presyncope is caused by too much exposure to heat, loosen tight clothing but protect the patient’s privacy, apply cooling techniques and avoid giving fluids as this can cause aspiration.
As both dizziness and headaches can either be mysterious in nature or are direct results of serious medical and psychiatric conditions, self-treatment is highly discouraged, as this can make disease outcome worse and prognosis become bleaker. Always bear in mind that nothing can replace and substitute proper medical advice and intervention. Remember to talk with your healthcare provider immediately and promptly.