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There are 74 possible causes of dizziness

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What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded, woozy, or unbalanced. It affects the sensory organs, specifically eyes and ears. It can cause fainting. Dizziness is not a disease but a symptom of other disorders.

Vertigo and disequilibrium may cause a feeling of dizziness, but those two terms describe different symptoms. Vertigo is characterized by a feeling of spinning. Disequilibrium is a loss of balance or equilibrium. True dizziness is the feeling of lightheadedness or nearly fainting.

Dizziness is common. The underlying cause of dizziness is usually not serious. Occasional dizziness is nothing to worry about.

Seek medical attention if you have recurring bouts of dizziness with no apparent cause. Also seek immediate help if you experience sudden dizziness along with a head injury, a headache, neck ache, blurred vision, hearing loss, a loss of motor ability, a loss of consciousness, or chest pain. These could indicate serious issues.

What Causes Dizziness?

Common causes of dizziness include inner-ear disorders, medications, and alcohol.

Dizziness is often a result of vertigo. It can also be caused by a problem in the inner ear, where balance is regulated. The most common cause of vertigo and vertigo-related dizziness is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This causes short-term dizziness when a person changes positions quickly—for instance, when sitting up in bed.

Dizziness and vertigo can also be caused by Meniere’s disease (which causes fluid buildup in the ear), migraine, or acoustic neuroma, a benign growth on the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. Very rarely, vertigo could be caused by a stroke, brain hemorrhage, multiple sclerosis, or another neurological disorder.

Other causes of dizziness include:

  • sudden drop in blood pressure, as may occur upon standing suddenly
  • heart muscle disease
  • decrease in blood volume
  • neurological conditions
  • side effect from medications
  • anxiety disorders
  • anemia (low iron)
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • ear infection
  • dehydration
  • heat stroke
  • excessive exercise
  • motion sickness

What Are the Symptoms of Dizziness?

Symptoms of dizziness include:

  • lightheadedness
  • vertigo (spinning motion)
  • unsteadiness
  • loss of balance
  • sensation of floating or swimming
  • heavy-headedness
  • spaciness

Sometimes dizziness is accompanied by clamminess, nausea, vomiting, paleness, or losing consciousness.

How Is Dizziness Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose dizziness and its underlying cause by performing a physical examination. He or she will ask questions about a patient’s dizziness, including when it strikes, in what positions, where the symptoms are located, and the severity.

The doctor may also test a patient’s eyes and ears, observe the patient’s posture, and perform tests to check balance. Depending on the suspected cause, a CT scan or MRI might be recommended.

In some cases, no cause is determined.

How Is Dizziness Treated?

Treatment for dizziness focuses on the underlying cause. Often, at-home treatments, lifestyle changes, and medication can control the cause of dizziness.

To treat BBPV, a procedure can be performed to reposition the head. For inner-ear issues, medications and at-home exercises can help manage balance. Meniere’s disease is treated with diet and occasionally injections or ear surgery. Migraines are treated with medications and lifestyle changes, such as learning to identify and avoid migraine triggers. Medication can help with pain and nausea. Medication is often used for anxiety disorders. Drinking plenty of fluids can help when dizziness is caused by excessive exercise, heat, or dehydration.

Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and any substances that affect balance or trigger dizziness should be avoided. 

What Is the Outlook for Dizziness?

Most cases of dizziness clear up on their own when the underlying cause is treated. In rare cases, dizziness can be a sign of a more serious health problem.

Dizziness can cause serious complications when it causes fainting or a loss of balance. This can be especially dangerous when a person is driving or operating heavy machinery. Use caution if you feel a dizziness episode coming. If you become dizzy, stop driving immediately or find a safe place to steady yourself until it passes.

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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can be a dangerous condition. Hypoglycemia is rare in people who are not suffering from diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar...

Read more »

2

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is a disorder of the inner ear in which a nerve that detects head movement becomes inflamed. It causes dizziness, nausea, vertigo, and potentially permanent loss of hearing.

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3

Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation happens when you suddenly start breathing very quickly. Exhaling more than you inhale causes low carbon dioxide levels, which leads to lightheadedness and tingling in the fingers.

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4

Bleeding

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding can refer to blood loss inside the body (internal bleeding) or blood loss outside of the body (external bleeding). It can cause bruising, pain, and symptoms of shock. Too much bleeding can lead to death.

Read more »

5

Cold and Flu Overview

Overview Colds (common colds) and the flu (influenza) are contagious infections that affect the respiratory system. Both are airborne illnesses, spread through coughing and sneezing. Colds typically are confined to th...

Read more »

6

Dehydration

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you drink. The most common cause of water loss from the body is excessive sweating. Headaches, dizziness, and decreased urination are symptoms.

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7

Benign Positional Vertigo

Benign positional vertigo (BPV) is a sudden sensation of spinning triggered by changing the position of your head. It

Read more »

9

Hypotension

Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure. Low blood pressure is good in most cases, but it may lead to fatigue, dizziness, or even loss of consciousness. It can be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Read more »

10

Heart Attack Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A clot blocks the blood flow to the heart (heart attack), and damages heart muscle. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a blue or grey tinge to the skin.

Read more »

11

Ventricular Tachycardia

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a very fast heartbeat caused by a malfunction in one of the heart's ventricles. It is a pulse of more than 100 beats per minute with at least three irregular heartbeats in a row. VT ca...

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12

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder occurs when you live in fear of having a panic attack. You are having a panic attack when you feel sudden, overwhelming terror that has no obvious cause. You may experience physical symptoms such as ...

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13

Hypovolemic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Hypovolemic shock is a life-threatening condition that results when you lose more than 20 percent (one-fifth) of your body's blood or fluid supply. This severe fluid loss makes it impossible for the heart to pum...

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14

Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when a person's neck is whipped backward and then forward very suddenly. This injury is most common following a rear-end car collision. It can also result from physical abuse, sports injuries, o...

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15

Caffeine Overdose

Caffeine overdose may occur when you ingest more than the recommended amount of caffeine, which is usually 200 to 300 mg per day. However, a safe amount of caffeine is different for everyone, as it depends on weight...

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16

Middle Ear Infection

A middle ear infection, also called otitis, occurs when the area behind the eardrum becomes inflamed as a result of a bacteria or virus. The condition is most common in children. According to the Lucile Packar...

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17

High Blood Pressure Overview

Hypertension, or high blood pressure (HBP), increases the risk of heart attack, stroke & other health problems. Learn HBP symptoms & get treatment under an MD's care.

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18

Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is a faster-than-normal heart rate. The term paroxysmal means that it only happens from time to time. In the case of PSVT, the rapid heart rate can last from a few minute...

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19

Abnormal Heart Rhythms

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat? If you're not a character in a romance novel, that may mean you have an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Within the heart is a complex system of valves, nodes, an...

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20

Atrial Flutter

Atrial flutter (AFL) is a type of abnormal heart rate, or arrhythmia. It occurs when the upper chambers of your heart (the atria) beat too fast. When the top of your heart (atria) beats faster than the botto...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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