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Dizziness may cause you to feel light-headed or weak. You may also feel like you are going to faint. It can happen for a short time or continue and get in the way of your daily activities.
It is different from vertigo which is a feeling that the room is spinning.
Many conditions can cause dizziness such as:
- A drop in blood pressure when standing— orthostatic hypotension
- Neurological conditions
- Conditions that affect how the heart pumps blood to the body
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol use disorder or illicit drug use
- Infection or fever
- Brain injury
- Low blood sugar— hypoglycemia
Some medicine can also cause dizziness including:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine 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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Symptoms depend on the type of dizziness you have. Common symptoms include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Vision or hearing problems
- Heart palpitations
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have:
- Dizziness that increases or gets worse
- Signs of an infection such as fever or chills
- Concern that your medication may be causing dizziness
- Hearing loss
- A headache that occurs with dizziness
- Other symptoms in addition to dizziness
When Should I Call for Medical Help Immediately?
Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if you have:
- A head injury
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain
- High fever
Look for and know the signs of stroke. These may include:
- Face drooping—one side of the face is numb or drooping
- Arm weakness—one arm is numb, weak, or drifts downward when trying to raise it up
- Speech difficulty—includes slurring, inability to speak, or inability to repeat a simple sentence
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Confusion or difficulty understanding
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of balance
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Blood pressure measurements
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Other tests may include:
Treatment will focus on the cause. This may relieve the dizziness.
Home Care and Lifestyle Changes
It may take some time for treatment to work. Treatment may also not relieve all dizziness. To avoid injuries:
- If you are feeling dizzy, sit down right away. Avoid activities that could cause greater harm if you faint. This includes driving, using machinery, or climbing a ladder.
- Remove items in your home that could cause you to lose your balance. This includes 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.
Prevention will depend on the causes. If you tend to get dizzy the following may help prevent a dizzy spell:
- Avoid sudden movements.
- Avoid bending down or bending your head/neck backward.
- Avoid smoking. Do not drink excess alcohol or use street drugs.
- Follow your care plan for health conditions.
- Get treatment when you have an infection.
- Talk to your doctor right away if you have side effects from your medicine.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/dizziness-and-motion-sickness. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Dizziness—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T360974/Dizziness-differential-diagnosis . Updated March 19, 2018. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Stroke warning signs and symptoms. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms%5FUCM%5F308528%5FSubHomePage.jsp. Accessed November 8, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 11/2018
- Update Date: 10/01/2018