Dizziness: causes, illnesses and self-help

Dizziness: causes, illnesses and self-help

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Dizziness: these are the causes

Those who feel drowsy feel like they are on drugs. Everything around him is "as if packed in cotton wool" or as in the phase between waking and falling asleep. Those affected usually perceive this condition as uncomfortable.

A quantitative consciousness disorder

Dizziness is the mildest quantitative disturbance of consciousness, that is, a disorder related to the level of alertness. More severe quantitative disturbances of consciousness are somnolence, sopor and coma. Qualitative consciousness disorders, on the other hand, are narrowed or shifted consciousness.

Mental clarity with limitations

In contrast to more severe disturbances in consciousness, mental clarity is retained when drowsy; So those affected consciously perceive their environment, but they think and act more slowly. They take longer to record and process information, and their reactions are delayed.

Despite their mental clarity, their judgment and sense of orientation are reduced. You have trouble forming words. In addition, there is often exhaustion, dizziness, pressure on the head and the feeling of "driving a carousel".


Dizziness is not a disease, but a relatively non-specific symptom that can have many causes. These include medications that reduce consciousness, the consumption of alcohol and other substances, lack of sleep, metabolic problems, infectious diseases or traumatic brain injury.

Not enough fluids and sleep

A harmless cause is a lack of fluid. Here, accompanying symptoms come fatigue and headache. You can avoid this form of drowsiness by making sure you drink enough. In total, this should be about two liters of water a day.

Lack of sleep: Not enough sleep causes tiredness, but also a feeling of drowsiness.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol: Anyone who has ever drunk too much knows drowsiness when drunk. Faces blur, the stomach rumbles, the sense of orientation wanes. However, if the alcohol level is high, the symptoms go beyond this: Those who suffer a film tear, see things two or three times and no longer have control over their actions are not only light-headed - because light-headedness is characterized by the fact that mental clarity is retained.

On the other hand, those who are drunk and still notice that it is difficult for them to speak (slam) and have problems walking straight are dazed by the alcohol. We feel dizzy not only during the intoxication, but also with the “hangover” with whom we wake up the next morning. Here the mental clarity is just returning, but the symptoms include fatigue, a lack of judgment and delayed thinking and acting.

Other substances that cause drowsiness are cannabis, all morphine such as opium or heroin, extasy, so-called “KO drops”, “angel dust” and various narcotics.

Low blood pressure / anemia / iron deficiency

Low blood pressure can be the trigger for the symptoms. Here the accompanying symptom is dizziness. There are many reasons for low blood pressure - from heart failure, blood loss and iron deficiency to hormone disorders, hypothyroidism and iodine and iron deficiency.

An iodine deficiency leads to an underactive thyroid gland, which "puts the body's energy metabolism on ice". An iron deficiency means that the blood cannot absorb enough oxygen, which leads to poor circulation. The body needs iodine as a trace element to form the thyroid hormones. These in turn are necessary for bone formation, brain development and energy metabolism. The hormone gland processes up to 80% of all iodine that we ingest.

The iodine gets into the gastrointestinal tract through food, and from there with the blood into the thyroid. There the hormones are formed, the thyroid gland stores them and releases them into the blood in the necessary doses. The two hormones of the endocrine gland are largely bound to proteins, only 1% remains free and acts on the metabolism as free T 3 and free T 4.

Iron is necessary to get the oxygen into the blood and red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is therefore also called anemia from iron deficiency. The undersupply reduces the hemoglobin, which leads to a deterioration in the oxygen supply in the tissues and cells.
Anemia from iron deficiency arises when we eat too little iron in our diet.

Typical symptoms are extreme fatigue and exhaustion. This is because the body cannot transport oxygen into the cells without the mineral, and without the oxygen there is no energy. Iron-rich foods are eggs, meat, almonds, avocados and green vegetables. The body cannot adequately absorb iron, which is in bread, milk and cereal products.

The body loses iron when urinating, sweating and shedding old skin cells. Bleeding leads to a further loss of the trace element, and therefore women need more iron than men because of their monthly period. A deficiency affects the entire body. The central nervous system disorders show up as dizziness, headache, poor concentration and depression. The problems in the cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary system can manifest themselves in the form of palpitations, congestion, shortness of breath, tiredness, exhaustion and exhaustion.

The disturbed metabolism manifests itself as a lack of appetite, non-psychological anorexia and muscle wasting. The damage to the skin, hair and nails leads to facial pallor, cracked corners of the mouth, brittle nails and regressed mucous membranes.

Anemia can also be triggered by disorders of the kidney, bone marrow diseases, seepage bleeding in the stomach, malaria, leukemia, tumors, lymphomas or heart problems.

Infectious diseases

Some infectious diseases are typically accompanied by drowsiness. These include the "real" flu, a flu infection, causes of Lyme disease or the Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever). The numb feeling often lasts for weeks after the actual illness is over.

The common symptoms of colds and flu infections are dizziness and weakness. There is also an itch in the nose and throat, headache, chills, then hoarseness, sore throat, runny nose, cough, body aches and fever. Fatigue increases as the disease progresses.

With Pfeiffer's glandular fever, there is a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck and neck, as well as fever and sore throat. Symptoms such as a feeling of pressure in the nose and forehead, chronic runny nose and headache, hoarseness and cough are typical for sinus infections.

Drowsiness from medication

The following medicines can be used as triggers:

  1. Antihistamines work in the central nervous system and can therefore cause drowsiness.
  2. Low-potency antipsychotics can cause the discomfort because their purpose is to contain uncontrolled outbursts of feeling.
  3. Hypotensive
  4. Antidepressants often make you feel light-headed.

Mental disorders

Drowsiness in mental disorders is extremely common. In traumatization and borderline syndrome, this often turns into dissociations and other serious forms of loss of consciousness. In the case of depression, a feeling of drowsiness is part of the regular clinical picture. Stress is also a classic trigger.

Depression occurs as a comorbidity from other serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart problems, and Parkinson's, all of which are a source of drowsiness. Depression exacerbates these conditions, and these conditions exacerbate depression - this spiral can immediately threaten the lives of those affected. Medications for the corresponding diseases can also trigger depression as a side effect.

Other possible causes of drowsiness

  1. Wear or tension in the cervical spine
  2. Underactive thyroid
  3. High blood pressure or fluctuations in blood pressure
  4. Hypoglycemia and hypoglycaemia can both cause drowsiness, for example in diabetes mellitus
  5. Various head injuries caused by blows, bumps, kicks or falls, for example in the event of concussion or hemorrhage
  6. Heart and lung diseases as well as kidney and liver damage. The symptom occurs especially with a weak heart, combined with a general feeling of weakness.
  7. In the case of a stroke, a mild form of consciousness disorder can be an accompanying symptom, in addition to the main symptoms such as paralysis, vision and speech disorders.
  8. Meningitis is accompanied by the feeling of being “packed in cotton wool”, in addition there are headaches, fever, neck tension and stiff neck.
  9. A brain tumor occasionally becomes drowsy because the expansion of the tumor increases the pressure in the brain.

What to do? - Self-help in the event of drowsiness

With a basic disease, the doctor must address the cause of the disease. However, because drowsiness is a symptom, you can often alleviate it with simple measures - largely independent of the triggers.

  1. Drink a large glass of water.
  2. Hold your forearms under cold water, your head under the cold tap or take a shower alternating between hot and cold. This boosts the circulation.
  3. Take a walk in the fresh air. Exercise and oxygen help against the feeling of "cotton wool in the head".
  4. Lie down for a short while. A nap shouldn't be longer than 30 minutes.

Home remedies for high blood pressure

With high blood pressure (hypertension), garlic, onions and wild garlic help, as well as lovage, basil, spinach, fennel, cauliflower, white beans and apricots. Herbal teas for hypertension contain hawthorn flowers, mistletoe, horsetail, valerian, lavender, passion flower and olive leaves.

Pureed garlic and lemon with water in a shot glass can naturally lower blood pressure. Arm baths in lukewarm water and cold pouring afterwards help as well as yoga. Honey, apple cider vinegar in water and black cumin oil as a dietary supplement are other proven home remedies for high blood pressure. The same applies to essential oils that are atomized in an aroma lamp. Lemon balm, ylang-ylang or clary sage are particularly suitable.

When should you see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if the symptoms become chronic and none of the home remedies improve. If the following additional symptoms appear, there is no time to waste and you should see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Sudden headaches that sting or burn
  • Constant sleepiness, even during the day
  • Paralysis, feelings of numbness, discomfort when speaking and walking
  • Changes in nature, high irritability, listlessness / lethargy, passive aggressiveness
  • cramps

(Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Kretz, Schäffer: Anesthesia Emergency Medicine Pain Therapy, Springer Verlag, 2008
  • Striebel: Anesthesia, intensive care medicine, emergency medicine for study and training, Schattauer Verlag, 2013
  • Debara L. Tucci: Dizziness and vertigo, MSD Manual, (accessed September 5, 2019), MSD
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: About Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), (accessed September 5, 2019), cdc

ICD codes for this disease: R40.0ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Carol Foster, MD Vertigo Treatment Oct 11 (May 2022).


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