Weird dizzy spell - Should I do anything?
January 14, 2013 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Just experienced a very weird dizzy spell...suddenly the room started spinning and I literally had to lay down on the floor of my office for about 10 minutes.

(Luckily I have a private office so I was able to close the door and not get any weird looks!) I basically felt similar to times when I have been very, very drunk, but without having had any alcohol.

For obvious reasons, very disconcerting! I'm wondering if this is the sort of thing I should see a doctor about? If so, do I go now? Make an appointment for later? Still feeling somewhat spin-ny, so not sure how capable I am of walking anywhere at the moment, but I could call someone?

For what it's worth, I did eat breakfast this morning, and had 2 cups of coffee (not unusual). Got plenty of sleep last night, and can't think of anything unusual with my routine.
posted by rainbowbrite to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could be something relatively harmless, like benign positional vertigo, but I'd definitely recommend calling your doc now.
posted by otolith at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2013

Dehydration will do this to you. How are you with the fluids?

One episode is no big deal, but be aware of other stuff that might be going on. Hydrate and see if you feel better. Eat a little something with protein and carbs in it.

Then assess.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:45 PM on January 14, 2013

IANAD, but yes, you should see a doctor. Could be blood pressure, something neurological, etc. But if it happens once it could happen again, say when you are driving. You want an explanation.
posted by rocketpup at 12:45 PM on January 14, 2013

I'm not a doctor, but when I've had random dizzy spells it's usually due to something like having stood up too quickly. Could also be an inner ear infection, though, so you may well want to go in and get it looked at. That aside, a single episode of dizziness/vertigo with no other symptoms probably isn't a medical emergency.
posted by aecorwin at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

This happened to me one morning. I tried getting up out of bed and had that craziness of dizzy; the floor was moving, it was scary. Had to lay down immediately like you did. Laying down made it go away, but it was not over! I went to the doc on campus and she did some eye test for vertigo (checked for shakiness in my retina or something). I ended up being diagnosed with an inner ear infection. Took antibiotics. Was gone and better. But it was freaky!
posted by foxhat10 at 12:48 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's vertigo -- vertigo is when the ROOM is spinning, vs. when YOU are spinning or if you feel lightheaded or like you're going to pass out. I get this all the time and it sucks. My husband, on the other hand, had a single transient episode a couple years ago and it's never come back. So don't freak out too bad.

The eye test foxhat10 is referring to is probably for nystagmus, which is when your whole eyeball shakes back and forth.

You can try versions of the Epley maneuver yourself; be aware though that this can make the vertigo worse before it gets better. However, if this is the first time you've ever had it and it isn't going away within, say, an hour, you should probably go to the doctor to rule out an inner ear infection.

One caution: if you feel unstable walking, DO NOT DRIVE. Driving while vertiginous can be ery dangerous.
posted by KathrynT at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2013

Thanks for the quick responses, guys! I am now feeling a little weird but ok enough to venture out of the office, so I will head down to the kitchen and grab some water. Have scheduled an appointment with the doc for tomorrow morning to check on the inner ear infection thing.

And, no worries, I do not have a car and so I definitely will not be driving. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:00 PM on January 14, 2013

If you're having weird possibly-neurological symptoms, it might be a good idea to alert a trusted colleague rather than hiding in your office. (Just in case you did pass out or something.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2013

I had that happen the other night---it seemed to be a combination of being overheated and needing a bunch of water. (It happens to me all the time after I get out of a hot tub, for example.) I wouldn't worry unless it started happening a lot, personally.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2013

It is a good idea to follow through with the doctor for safety/peace of mind reasons.

But, just so you don't spend the night in knots of anxious worry, please know that there are plenty of benign causes for this - not eating very much, standing up too fast, dehydration, heat, etc. So good call on the doctor, but the odds are that this was something minor as opposed to a "Random Brain Tumor" type of cause.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2013

A friend of mine felt a bit dizzy and then passed out completely (and fell over and bashed his head) a few weeks ago in the middle of a school nativity play. He had the good grace to step outside before it happened.

Understandably, people were a bit worried. But after a quick visit to a local GP he was pronounced fit and well. The only advice the doctor gave was "if you feel dizzy like that again, lie down. Because that way, you won't head-butt anything". The only contributing factor seemed to be that he'd skipped breakfast.

All of which is to say that an isolated dizzy spell, or even a complete faint, isn't generally something to worry about, unless it becomes a habit.
posted by pipeski at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2013

Could be something relatively harmless, like benign positional vertigo, but I'd definitely recommend calling your doc now.

Exactly. I have a bunch of weird inner ear problems and the first time I woke up with vertigo I was so terribly scared and I went to the doc [often if you have the sort of vertigo where nly moving your head in a certain way induces it you can drive okay because you're facing forward, not like I'd do it all the time, but you don't have to call an ambulance] who did some tests and said he was pretty sure it was BPV. I did the Eppley maneuvers which can be horrible because it can induce vertigo if you weren't having it, but it helped me recover more quickly.

A few things I watch include caffeine and salt intake and blood sugar levels. For me it seems sinus related so I do neti pot rinses and take Sudafed to keep things cleared up. If it's bad at night and I can't sleep I take dramamine. It will make you really groggy but can help you not have the spins when you lie down. Good luck. I know it's scary but chances are it's something manageable. Try to have a friend nearby or within phone call range while you figure this out.
posted by jessamyn at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2013

I had this happen to me maybe three or four times over the past 25 years or so. It has been infrequent enough that the docs have never been able to pin it down... Not saying to ignore it, just wanted to share that it isn't that uncommon.
posted by HuronBob at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2013

This happened to me and it turned out to be a symptom of having really low iron. If that's the case, then it's easy to fix with iron supplements. I'm assuming you're female from your username, and having low iron is really common in women, particularly if you have heavy periods.

I'd suggest going to your doctor and getting a simple blood test to check your iron levels (as well as getting checked out generally in case anything else could be going on).
posted by RubyScarlet at 3:55 PM on January 14, 2013

if you were sitting and this came out of the blue it could be inner ear related. if you stood up and it happened it could very likely be high blood pressure related. i've had both and the high blood pressure spins feel more like drunk spins than the vertigo spins. vertigo is far more alien feeling and thus pretty scary. if the spinning feels like it will never stop and you can't get a real bearing on which way to orient yourself then i'd say vertigo. if it feels like you might pass out, blood pressure.

since it's almost one a.m. right now i'm sure you've likely seen a doctor and if you haven't you probably should. to me it sounds more like blood pressure. i have pre-hypertension: highish but not high enough to be dangerous yet, but it's still enough to occasionally give me the spins if i stand up too quickly or cause me to fall down when i get up in the night.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:51 PM on January 14, 2013

True, spinning/rotatory vertigo like that is frequently due to inner ear dysfunction--specifically a problem with the vestibular system. BPV or BPPV is one of many vestibular disorders, the most commonly diagnosed being labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis (code for: "we think a virus or something is causing inflammation of your inner ear organ or the nerve leading to that organ, although there's no actual way of knowing"). The good news is that these conditions usually resolve on their own. The bad news is that an ear doctor is generally not going to simply look into your ear and be able to make the diagnosis--all they can really visualize is the eardrum and middle ear space immediately behind the ear drum (i.e., the part of the ear involved in a standard ear infection). The inner ear is, for all intents and purposes, completely encased in one of the hardest bones in your body (temporal bone of the skull). Still, it's a good idea to visit an ENT--some of them will treat what they feel is labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis with steroids. If you keep experiencing these symptoms and an ENT is not offering much in the way of help, it doesn't hurt to try to see an oto-neurologist or neurotologist. IANAD, just someone who's had a vestibular disorder for a long time.

Also, here's a good episode of Second Opinion about dizziness, featuring one of our preeminent researchers on the human vestibular system.
posted by bennett being thrown at 8:24 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if anyone is still looking at this thread, but just in case, I'll add in my possibly relevant personal experience. I've had sensations that sound like what you experienced a couple of times & I've realised what the triggers are for me: its when I've got low blood sugar for some reason (fasting or dieting in my case) & I then experience pain. I think the sensation is the precursor to my fainting, but lying on the floor for a bit makes it go off gradually. The pain doesn't have to be extraordinary (tripping while going up stairs & landing on my knee of the edge of the next stair for instance), its just the combination of that with low blood sugar.
Of course if it happens more than very infrequently you should get checked out by a doctor.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 10:36 AM on January 20, 2013

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