Josh's vehicle was hit by an IED explosion, and he sustained multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. He tried to act as if nothing was wrong at first, until the pain just became too great for him to function. The help he got from VA put him back on track to get his life in a better place.
What is dizziness?
Do you have periods where you feel faint? Have a sensation of lightheadedness? Feel like you’re moving when you’re not? Maybe the world feels like it’s spinning so much that you lose your balance? These feelings are commonly referred to as dizziness.
You might think, “I feel dizzy” when you’re feeling faint or lightheaded. You may experience vertigo, which is when you feel like your surroundings are moving when they aren’t. Lightheadedness and vertigo are both kinds of dizziness, but it’s important to understand what kind of dizziness you have so that you can effectively address it.
“Every time I sat in a waiting room for more than a few minutes I would start to feel dizzy. I always thought it was just me. I never knew it could be related to my service so many years ago.”
Lightheadedness is caused by a momentary drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your head. This can be due to:
- Heart disease or irregular heartbeat
- Medications, especially blood pressure medications
- Inner ear problems
- Illnesses like the common cold or flu
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Very deep or rapid breathing
- Stress or nervousness
- Alcohol, tobacco, or substance misuse
- Bleeding, including internal bleeding
Some Veterans experience sudden dizziness related to stressful situations in their military or civilian lives. Using alcohol or drugs can cause or worsen dizziness.
Vertigo happens when your body’s balance signals don’t match up. Your body uses your vision, nerves in your joints, skin pressure, and parts of your inner ear to keep your sense of balance. Several things can cause vertigo:
- Inner ear disorders
- Ear or head injury
- Migraine headaches
- Not enough blood flow to the brain
- Effects of alcohol, drugs, or medications
- Tumors in the ear or head area
“Being diagnosed with TBI was in a lot of ways a relief because at least now I know why I get dizzy and lose my balance for no reason whatsoever.”
Traumatic brain injury from combat, training exercises, or an accident can also be a cause of dizziness in Veterans. Another reason for dizziness includes severe headaches caused by certain types of foods, noises, or smells.
Feeling dizzy can make it difficult or even dangerous to operate machinery or drive a car. Some people also have nausea along with dizziness. Dizziness can make it hard to engage in normal activities or to interact with people.
If I’m experiencing dizziness, what can I do about it right away?
- Lie down, but not flat on your back, for a minute or two
- After lying down, sit up slowly and remain sitting for one to two minutes before standing up
- Move slowly to reduce the risk of falling
Making some changes in your lifestyle can help you overcome dizziness. There are some things you can do at home to reduce or avoid dizziness.
- Drink more fluids, especially water — dehydration can cause dizziness or make it worse
- Make sure you are getting enough rest — avoiding fatigue can help with dizziness
- Avoid using substances like alcohol or drugs
- Try to get up slowly when you are sitting or lying down
- Sit on the edge of the bed in the morning before standing up
If your symptoms do not improve after a week, become more severe or frequent, or if you experience vomiting, severe dehydration, or fainting, you should see a doctor. If you suddenly lose function in part of your body along with vertigo, this can indicate a serious problem, such as a stroke. You should call 911 and seek medical help immediately.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
“It was hard to talk about my medical issues with people around me, but I would much rather everyone know what’s going on with me ahead of time in case something ever happened and I needed their help.”
Every day, Veterans connect with useful resources and effective treatments for dizziness. If dizziness is affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
- Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
- Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist, who can help you gain skills to cope with the effects of dizziness
Explore these resources for more information about dizziness in Veterans.
Learn more about the possible associations between dizziness and other issues such as headaches, effects of traumatic brain injury, and stress and anxiety.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Dizziness could be a sign of other health conditions that need attention. This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.