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Feeling Lightheaded: 5 Reasons to Treat It Seriously

Feeling Lightheaded: 5 Reasons to Treat It Seriously
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By    |   Tuesday, 19 September 2017 02:32 PM

Feeling woozy or lightheaded is a common complaint among older adults. Although it’s usually not caused by anything life threatening, it could be the sign of something serious so you need to exercise caution.

“My biggest worry when a patient comes in to the emergency department after a fall or other episode that occurred after feeling lightheaded is that it may happen again,” says Dr. Kevin Rodgers, an emergency medicine doctor in Indianapolis, Indiana and the president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

“Feeling light headed may be a sign of an underlying condition and at the very least, can lead to a serious fall which in and of itself is potentially deadly. Many older folks are taking antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs so a fall can lead to serious internal bleeding.”

If you feel lightheaded, drink a glass or water or orange juice. If the feeling doesn’t go way, seek medical help.

Rodgers tells Newsmax Health that feeling dizzy is very different than being lightheaded. Dizziness refers to a condition called vertigo.

“That’s one of the questions we ask in the ED when a patient presents after a fall or trauma,” he explains. “Were you feeling woozy or was the room spinning. These are two very different symptoms or very different conditions.”

Here are the five most common causes of lightheadedness and how to treat them:

Low blood pressure. A sudden drop in blood pressure is common in older folks since the autonomic nervous system which regulates the shift in blood pressure, deteriorates with age. So when people stand up quickly, they may experience a temporary drop in blood pressure called “orthostatic hypotension.”

This can lead to syncope, or fainting. Check with your doctor to ensure there are no cardiovascular irregularities such as heart arrthymias causing the problem and to discuss possible medication. Also, be very careful when changing medication, especially blood pressure meds. Discuss the side effects with your health care provider to minimize the chances of becoming lightheaded. It may help to sit on the edge or a bed or chair for a few minutes before standing erect.

Dehydration: When people lose fluid by exercising or spending time outdoors, they may suffer from dehydration which can lead to lightheadedness.

“We see this often at athletic events when competitors pass the finish line and then suddenly stop cold after sweating and losing fluids during the race,” says Rodgers. “They pass out left and right.”

Mixing outdoor activates with alcohol can also cause dehydration because alcohol acts like diuretic, he says. Stay hydrated and take fluids that contain electrolytes like potassium.

Drug side effects. Many medications may make you feel light headed, especially those that regulate blood pressure or make you urinate more. If you feel your medication is causing repeated bouts of wooziness, check with your doctor to adjust the dosage or switch to a different prescription.

”People with diabetes are also prone to feeling lightheaded because the disease can wreak havoc with the eyesight and cause peripheral neuropathy so they can’t feel their legs,” adds Rodgers. “We like these patients to work with physical therapists to help them develop ambulatory skills.”

Low blood sugar. When you don’t have enough blood sugar in your body, every system goes on reserve to use as little energy as possible, including your brain, making you feel lightheaded. While a drink of orange juice may alleviate the symptoms, it’s best to have your blood sugar levels check by your doctor.

Heart attack or stroke. The most serious cause of lightheaded can be heart attack or stroke. “If you are repeatedly falling to the left side for example, this may be a sign of a stroke,” says Rodgers. “The American Heart Association has been doing a very good job of alerting the public to some of the more subtle signs of heart attack and stroke.”

Symptoms of a heart attack also include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, arm pain or back pain. Other signs of possible stroke are headache, muscle weakness, visual changes or slurred speech.

“Even if you experience lightheaded without the other symptoms, and you are an older adult, its best to check it out as soon as possible.”

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Feeling lightheaded is a common complaint among older adults. Although it’s usually not caused by anything life threatening, it could be the sign of something serious so you need to exercise caution. Here are five potentially serious causes.
lightheaded, serious, condition, heart, blood, pressure
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 02:32 PM
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