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What’s the Connection between Headaches and Dizziness?
Having a headaches and feeling dizzy at the same time can be unsettling and may make us anxious. Many things can cause headaches and dizziness at the same time. However, it can be beneficial if we can identify the source of our dizziness. Dizzy can mean different things to different people and describing the sensation of dizziness to the doctor can be often challenging.
Dizziness could either be a sensation of feeling lightheaded or a spinning sensation called vertigo. Light-headedness may happen due to a lack of blood flow reaching the brain and we may feel as if we are going to pass out. We have to make a note of when the dizziness occurs or gets worse. When we visit a doctor, we have to tell them all the symptoms that accompany our dizziness like a headaches or blurry vision or change in hearing etc.
Here are some of the potential causes which can cause headaches and dizziness at the same time.
Causes of Headaches and Dizziness
There can be many reasons that headaches and dizziness can coexist. Some of them can be easily treated, while in some rare cases, the symptoms may indicate a medical emergency.
Migraines are intense headaches that occur on one or both sides of the head. Usually, the intense pain of a migraine can be accompanied by dizziness. If the headaches and dizziness have some additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound and troubled seeing, then it may be a migraine.
Some people may get vestibular migraine where they experience cognitive clouding or brain fog. However, vestibular migraine isn't always accompanied by headaches and even if it does, the headaches are not severe.
Head injuries are of two types - external and internal. External head injuries may cause headaches but typically not dizziness, while internal injuries may often cause both headaches and dizziness. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) usually occur because of a blow to the head in a car accident, a hard fall or playing contact sports.
Headaches and dizziness may occur in TBIs along with other symptoms like concussion, confusion, nausea, vomiting, temporary loss of consciousness, memory problems etc. The post-trauma headaches can often occur in someone who has experienced a TBI and these headaches frequently come with dizziness.
In some people, a head trauma, ear trauma or sudden change in barometric pressure can cause perilymph fistula. Here, the person experiences fluid leak from the inner ear and this condition may cause headaches along with dizziness, hearing loss, nausea and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Whiplash or trauma to the neck area may cause cervical vertigo. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, in this condition, sudden neck movements can trigger headaches and dizziness.
Dehydration occurs when we lose more fluids than we take in. A headache along with dizziness is one of the main symptoms of dehydration. Extreme hot weather, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and taking some medications can cause dehydration and most cases are treated by simply drinking more water. Other symptoms of dehydration are fatigue, decreased urination, extreme thirst, dark-colored urine and confusion.
Low Blood Sugar
When our body's blood glucose level drops below its normal level, we experience low blood sugar. It is often linked to diabetes, but can also affect anyone who hasn't eaten in a while. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause headaches, dizziness, sweating, nausea, shaking, tingling sensations, fatigue, irritability, pale skin or hunger.
This condition can result from taking too much insulin or other diabetes medication, drinking alcohol, delaying or skipping meals, and increasing exercise or physical activity without adjusting the medications or food intake.
Easily Treatable Medical Conditions
Anaemia, anxiety, labyrinthitis and poor vision are some of the medical conditions that can cause headaches and dizziness together. A person gets anaemic when there aren't enough red blood cells in the body to effectively transport oxygen throughout the body. Without oxygen, the body can become weak and this may result in headaches and in some cases dizziness.
Headaches and dizziness are two of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety where a person's fear or worry can go out of proportion.
Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection which is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold or flu. A person feels inflammation of a labyrinth (delicate part of the ear). This infection typically goes away within a week or two on its own. Additionally, headaches and dizziness combined can be a sign of poor vision. A headache is a common sign that the eyes need glasses or a new prescription for the existing lenses. Dizziness may indicate that we may have to visit an eye doctor without any further delay.
Emergency Medical Conditions
It may be rare but sometimes, headaches with dizziness can indicate a medical emergency. One such medical condition is a ruptured brain aneurysm. There is a balloon called a brain aneurysm that forms in the blood vessels of the brain and these aneurysms often don't cause any symptoms until they rupture. The first symptom when they rupture is a severe headache which can make us dizzy. Some other symptoms include blurred vision, droopy eyelid, double vision, seizures, light sensitivity and loss of consciousness.
Stroke is another medical condition which can cause severe headaches and sudden dizziness. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted and the oxygen supply is cut off. Other symptoms of stroke include numbness or weakness on one side of the body, sudden vision problems, confusion or difficulty in walking and maintaining balance.
Post-concussion syndrome can cause a range of symptoms and typically include headaches and dizziness for weeks or months after the injury. The headaches in this syndrome may feel similar to migraine.
Side-effects of Medicines
Some medications may cause headaches and dizziness especially if you are taking them for the first time. Medicines that may often cause headaches and dizziness include −
Birth control pills
Blood pressure medicines
Pain relief medicines
Erectile dysfunction medicines
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines
The side effects like headaches and dizziness may occur in the first few weeks, but if they continue, ask the doctor to adjust the dose or recommend a new medication.
Treating Headaches and Dizziness
Depending upon the cause of the headaches and dizziness, the doctors may suggest treatments. Over-the-counter pain relief medications, antidepressants, migraine relief medicines etc. are some of the options which the doctor may consider if the reason for the headaches and dizziness is migraine.
However, if the dizziness is accompanied by nausea, the doctor may recommend an over-the- counter antihistamine medication such as dimenhydrinate or Bonine (meclizine). If the dizziness is related to vertigo, one may need other specific treatment. Hence, it is advised to consult a neurologist or headaches specialist for headache treatment and to investigate the real reason behind the same.
Headaches or dizziness can be caused due to several reasons like migraine, dehydration, anaemia, anxiety, head injury or side effect of certain medications. If the headaches and dizziness are caused due to any of these reasons, one can treat the cause. However, if someone shows signs of a stroke or any other emergency medical condition, consult the doctor immediately.
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