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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:
- 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
Prescription medications can also cause dizziness. These may include:
- 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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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:
- 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 medical history. 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:
The electrical activity of your heart may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
Other tests may include:
- Tilt table test
- Hearing 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|
Home Care and Lifestyle Changes
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.
To help 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.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Vestibular Disorders Association
BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 14, 2013. Updated April 22, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/dizziness-and-motion-sickness. Updated December 2010. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Dizziness—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 8, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
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 December 1, 2014.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 11/2015
- Update Date: 12/20/2014