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Dizziness and fainting are symptoms and not a disease

But most people who have dizziness do not faint, and many people who faint do not have dizziness. Dizziness makes daily activities difficult and can worsen a person’s quality of life. But dizziness rarely indicates a life threatening disorder. Fainting is less common than dizziness and tends to interfere less with daily activities. But it can result in injuries and may indicate a serious or even life threatening disorder.

Dizziness is an uncomfortable, troubling sensation that can feel like spinning, unsteadiness, or light –headedness. While standing still, some people feel as if the world is spinning around them, making them feel unsteady and shaky. Just after standing up, some people sway, feel as if their head is swimming, and sometimes drop right back down in the chair.

After standing for a while, some people feel light-headed. All of these people say they feel dizzy. Because so many different feelings can be described as dizziness, doctors often try to put dizziness into categories. These categories help people understand each other when they talk about dizziness.

Four categories are usually used. Vertigo is a sensation of motion when there is no motion. It is often described as spinning. Vertigo is what some people have just after they ride on a carousel (bembea la mzunguuko). They briefly feel as though they are still moving, even after they have both feet planted firmly on the ground.

People with vertigo may feel that they are moving or that the surroundings are moving while they remain still. Vertigo usually occurs when a person is standing, lying down, or changing position. People with vertigo may also have nausea, sometimes with vomiting, and abnormal jerky eye movements (nystagmus). Dysequilibrium is a sense of unsteadiness or loss of balance that involves the legs or trunk.

Dysequilibrium may occur while a person is standing or walking. Light-headedness is a feeling that fainting may occur in the next few moments. Light-headedness usually occurs when the person gets up quickly after sitting or lying down for a while. Mixed dizziness is a miscellaneous category. It refers to dizziness that does not fit nearly into one of the other category. It refers to dizziness that does not fit into one of the other three categories.

The categories seem to work fairy well for dizziness that lasts less than a month (temporary or acute dizziness). But for dizziness that lasts more than a month (persistent or chronic dizziness), the categories start to blur together. For example, dizziness may seem like light-headedness and vertigo at the same time.

Or dizziness may seem to change from one category to another over time. Please note older people usually have chronic dizziness, so the categories are less helpful. Dizziness may occur when brain gets wrong or conflicting information about the body’s position in relation to the surroundings and to the body’s movements.

Several parts of the body provide this information. They include the eyes, a structure in the inner ear (called the vestibular labyrinth), and the nerves that carry information from the large joints (in the neck, hips, knees, and the ankles) to the brain. The brain constantly uses information from these body parts to direct the activities of muscles and joints so that the balance and stability are maintained. When the body cannot maintain balance and stability, dizziness sometimes occurs.

These are the general problems that can contribute to dizziness directly or indirectly: impairment of vision due to cataracts (mtoto wa jicho), glaucoma (increased intra ocular pressure-presha ndani ya jicho) if one puts on bifocal glasses and fails to judge distance of objects, impairment of hearing due to accumulation of wax (nta ndani ya masikio), old age changes of bones inside the ears (otosclerosis), malfunction of inner ear due to side effects of drugs like aspirin, quinine, antibiotics and diuretics, infections in inner ear if not treated adequately, strokes (kiharusi), diabetes (ugonjwa wa kisukari), vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, reduced blood flow due to blockage arteries in atherosclerosis (old age with elevated bad cholesterols- lehemu), low blood pressure after heavy meal (post prandial hypotension), pressure on nerves in the neck, degeneration of the disks and vertebrae in the neck (cervical spondylosis –due to old age) low blood pressure when standing up due to dehydration, loss of muscle tone and strength, Parkinson’s disease (ugonjwa wa kushtuka, kutetemeka na kukakamaa mwili) impairment of the heart to pump blood due to heart failure, heart valves disorder, reduction in oxygen level in the blood, side effects of drugs like anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, Angina itself can cause some of the body parts involved in balance to function less well.

Drugs used for angina may also cause dizziness. No cause for alarm, consult your doctor. Next week will discuss about fainting.

Email: amzigetz@ yahoo.com 0713 410 531

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Author: Dr ALI MZIGE

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