Dizziness may cause you to feel light-headed or weak. You may feel like you are going to faint. Dizziness can happen for a short period or be a long-lasting condition that gets in the way of your daily activities. It is different from vertigo, which is a feeling that the room is spinning or rotating while you are still.
Many conditions can cause dizziness such as: Orthostatic hypotension, a drop in blood pressure when standing
Neurological conditionsConditions that affect how the heart pumps blood to the bodyAnxiety
or illicit drug
Infection or feverHead injuryHypoglycemia, low blood sugar
Prescription medications can also cause dizziness. These may include: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitorsCalcium channel blockersNitratesAntipsychoticsTricyclic antidepressantsMonoamine oxidase inhibitors
Blood Flow to the Brain
In some cases, dizziness may be due to decreased blood flow to the brain.
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Dizziness is a symptom that may be caused by another condition. There are no specific risk factors for dizziness.
Symptoms depend on the type of dizziness you have. Common symptoms include: LightheadednessImbalanceNausea or vomitingHeadacheVision or hearing problemsHeart palpitations
Call your doctor if you have: Dizziness that increases or gets worseSigns of an infection such as fever or chillsConcern that your medication may be causing dizzinessHearing lossA headache that occurs with dizzinessOther symptoms in addition to dizziness
Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if you have: A head injuryRapid, irregular heartbeat, or chest painHigh fever
Look for and know the signs of stroke. These may include: Face drooping—one side of the face is numb or droopingArm weakness—one arm is numb, weak, or drifts downward when trying to raise it upSpeech difficulty—includes slurring, inability to speak, or inability to repeat a simple sentenceLeg numbness or weaknessConfusion or difficulty understandingDifficulty walkingLoss of balanceSudden, severe headache with no known cause
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluid may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsBlood pressure measurements
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: CT scanMRI scan
The electrical activity of your heart may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG).
Other tests may include: Tilt table testHearing and vision tests
Treatment depends on the cause of the dizziness. If your dizziness is caused by a condition, the treatment may help reduce symptoms. Examples include:
|Orthostatic hypotension||Medication, lifestyle, and dietary changes|
|Motion sickness||Medication and lifestyle changes|
|Anxiety disorder or other mental health condition||Therapy and medication|
|Infection||Antibiotic or antiviral medication|
|Dizziness due to medication that you are taking||Changes to your medication|
|Imbalance||Physical therapy to build strength and balance|
To avoid injuries, make these lifestyle changes: If you are feeling dizzy, sit down right away. Also, avoid activities that could cause harm such as driving, using machinery, or climbing a ladder.Remove items in your home that could cause you to lose your balance such as throw rugs and loose electrical cords.Place slip-resistant mats in your shower and on your bathroom floor.Place night lights in hallways and in the bathroom.Use a cane if you feel that you need extra support.
Try these tips to prevent dizziness: Avoid sudden movements.Avoid bending down or extending your neck.Avoid smoking, drinking excess amounts of alcohol, and using illicit drugs.Maintain proper treatment for long-term conditions.Get treatment when you have an infection.Talk to your doctor right away if you have side effects from your medications.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 14, 2013. Updated November 21, 2013. Accessed February 13, 2014.
Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/dizzinessMotionSickness.cfm. Updated December 2010. Accessed February 13, 2014.
Dizziness-differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 16, 2011. Accessed February 13, 2014.
Stroke warning signs and symptoms. American Stroke Association website. Available at:
http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed February 13, 2014.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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