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 conditions
- Conditions that affect how the heart pumps blood to the body
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol or illicit drug use
- Infection or fever
- Head injury
- Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar
Prescription medications can also cause dizziness. These may include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
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.
Your bodily fluid may be tested. This can be done with:
- 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 (ECG).
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:
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.
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.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 02/2014 -
- Update Date: 02/13/2014 -