Every year, 90 million Americans go to their doctors to get help for dizziness and vertigo. If you’re going through menopause, you might be one of those millions.
That’s right: Much like Kate and Anthony on “Bridgerton,” dizziness and menopause go hand in hand. But unlike the fictional couple, there’s little to love about this particular menopause symptom. If you’re frequently feeling lightheaded, woozy, or like the room is spinning around you, here’s what to know — and how to deal.
Can Perimenopause and Menopause Cause Dizziness?
Dizziness — a catch-all term for when a person feels faint, woozy, or disoriented — is a surprisingly common menopause symptom. A 2018 study on Japanese women aged 40-65 found that nearly 36 percent dealt with dizziness at least once per week. Yet experts don’t quite understand exactly what it is about menopause that triggers it. (Like many other aspects of menopause, there’s not much research on the subject.)
There are some theories, though. During perimenopause, your ovaries gradually stop producing estrogen. The irregular hormone levels lead to other menopause symptoms like irregular periods, hot flashes, and migraines. But estrogen does way more in our bodies than simply regulating our menstrual cycle. Some research has shown that we have estrogen receptors in our ears (yes, really), which help us with proper hearing and balance. A decrease of estrogen from menopause may affect inner ear function, which could lead to dizziness and other issues.
There are other things happening during the menopause transition that could be contributing to your dizzy spells. Take anxiety, which is common especially during early perimenopause. The above-mentioned Japanese study found a strong link between women with anxiety and dizziness (and indeed, dizziness can be a physical symptom of anxiety). Heart palpitations, which affect up to 47 percent of peri- and postmenopausal women, can also make you feel dizzy. The same goes for migraines, which affect up to 29 percent of women during menopause.
Other causes of dizziness not necessarily related to menopause include infections, blood pressure changes, low blood sugar, dehydration, anemia, and certain medications like sedatives.
No matter the cause, a dizzy spell might make you feel lightheaded, faint, unsteady on your feed, or woozy. For some people, they also feel like they’re spinning or that the room is moving around them. (This is known as vertigo, which we’ll talk about more in a sec.) It can affect your balance and even make you fall or pass out. You might also feel nauseous. Sometimes dizziness can feel worse when you’re standing or walking. But usually, it only lasts for a few seconds or minutes.
Menopause and Vertigo
Vertigo is a specific condition that can cause feelings of dizziness. You might feel like you’re moving when you’re not, or that the room around you is spinning. It’s typically caused either by inner ear issues or by brain-related health problems, like stroke, tumors, or traumatic brain injury. Roughly 40 percent of US adults will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetime, but it impacts women slightly more than men.
When it strikes, vertigo can feel like motion sickness even if you’re sitting totally still. It sometimes gets worse when you stand, walk, or change positions. Like dizziness, vertigo attacks typically last for a few minutes before letting up. However, some people might have spells of vertigo for days or weeks.
There potentially is a connection between vertigo and menopause. The most common type of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (try saying that three times fast!) an inner ear disorder where changing your head’s position can suddenly make the room spin. Generally, people over the age of 50 or who have experienced head injuries are more likely to develop benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). But research shows that perimenopausal women are particularly prone to BPPV, likely because, again, hormonal fluctuations during this time of life seem to affect how your inner ear works. Osteoporosis, the loss of bone density that often occurs after menopause, might also play a role in developing BPPV.
Meniere’s disease, which causes an abnormal amount of fluid buildup in the ear, can also trigger vertigo. Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes Meniere’s disease, but one 2012 study found that women who had vertigo during menopause were more likely to have Meniere’s disease than premenopausal women with vertigo — suggesting some kind of relationship between the two conditions.
How to Manage Dizziness
Dizzy spells are usually temporary and can go away on their own. But there are some things you can do to help make the feeling go away (or make it less awful in the moment):
- Sit or lie down. As soon as the dizziness strikes, get yourself to a chair, couch, or bed and close your eyes. If possible, turn off the lights.
- Take anti-nausea medication. If your dizzy spells make you nauseous, try an over-the-counter anti-nausea treatment (like Dramamine) or a safe herbal remedy like ginger or peppermint. Your doctor might also prescribe you nausea meds if it’s very severe.
- Drink water. Dehydration can make you feel dizzy and light headed. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have more water!
There are also some things you can do to prevent vertigo or dizziness from striking, including:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. These substances can worsen your symptoms…sorry!
- Stay hydrated.
- Cut back on sodium and sugar. According to VEDA (the Vestibular Disorders Association), consuming lots of sodium or sugar can trigger dizziness by disrupting your body’s fluid levels and balance.
- Manage your stress. If your dizziness is triggered by anxiety or migraines, it’s a good idea to address (and mitigate) the underlying stress in your life. Time to get serious about meditation, gentle exercise, sleep, and anything else that you find relaxing.
A word of caution: People often fall and hurt themselves when they’re dizzy. Be proactive about keeping yourself safe. Invest in some non-slip mats in your bathroom, make sure cords are stowed safely so they’re not a tripping hazard, and always hold onto a banister when using stairs. And avoid driving if your vertigo or dizziness strike without warning.
When to See a Doctor About Your Dizziness
You may need to seek medical care if your dizziness keeps coming back or occurs for prolonged periods of time. And if you think you have an underlying condition causing your dizziness (say, migraines or an inner ear infection), you should also talk to your doctor for help.
If you have long-term dizziness, consult with your healthcare provider. They may refer you to an audiologist to determine the cause of your dizziness and imbalance and the next best course of action. Vestibular rehabilitation is a form of therapy to improve balance and may be recommended for patients experiencing chronic dizziness. If you’re diagnosed with vertigo, your doctor may also prescribe medication or other therapies to address that specific condition.
If your dizziness is caused by an anxiety disorder, your doctor may recommend psychotherapy, a form of therapy that helps you identify patterns of thinking and beliefs and change negative behaviors with healthy ones. You might also be prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
Usually, dizziness on its own isn’t dangerous (although it is scary and frustrating in the moment). But seek emergency care ASAP if you’re feeling dizzy and have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- High fever
- Numbness or tingling in your face, arms, or legs
- A stiff neck or unclear speech
- Difficulty walking
Dizziness is a not-so-good feeling and can be debilitating to daily activities. Menopause-induced dizziness can resolve with time but some people may need to make lifestyle changes, including drinking more water, limiting caffeine, and drinking enough fluids. For chronic dizziness and vertigo related to menopause, consult with your healthcare provider or an audiologist. They can help you determine what’s causing your dizziness and better manage your symptoms to ensure the only time you’re seeing stars is at the movie theater.
Want to learn more about managing your menopause symptoms? Take Kindra’s Menopause Quiz to understand where you are on your journey and find out what solutions are right for you.
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