Dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded, woozy, or
unbalanced. It affects the sensory organs, specifically the eyes and ears, so
it can sometimes cause fainting. Dizziness isn’t a disease, but rather a
symptom of various disorders.
Vertigo and disequilibrium may cause a feeling of dizziness,
but those two terms describe different symptoms. Vertigo is characterized by a spinning sensation, like the room is moving.
It may also feel like motion sickness or as if you’re leaning to one side. Disequilibrium
is a loss of balance or equilibrium. True dizziness is the feeling of
lightheadedness or nearly fainting.
Dizziness is common and its underlying cause usually isn’t serious.
Occasional dizziness is not something to worry about. However, you should call
your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing repeated episodes of dizziness for
no apparent reason or for a prolonged period.
Common causes of dizziness include a migraine, medications,
and alcohol. It can also be caused by a problem in the inner ear, where balance
Dizziness is often a result of vertigo as well. The most
common cause of vertigo and vertigo-related dizziness is benign
positional vertigo (BPV). This causes short-term dizziness when someone
changes positions quickly, such as sitting up in bed after lying down.
Dizziness and vertigo can also be triggered by Meniere’s
disease. This causes fluid to build up in the ear with associated ear
fullness, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Another possible cause for dizziness and
vertigo is an acoustic neuroma. This is a noncancerous tumor that forms on the
nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.
Some other possible causes of dizziness include:
In rare cases, dizziness could be caused by multiple sclerosis,
a stroke, a malignant tumor, or another brain disorder.
Symptoms of dizziness
People experiencing dizziness may feel various sensations,
or feeling faint
false sense of spinning
of floating or swimming
Sometimes, dizziness is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or fainting.
Seek emergency medical help if you have these symptoms for extended periods.
to call a doctor about dizziness
You should call your doctor if you continue to have repeated
bouts of dizziness. You should also notify your doctor immediately if you
experience sudden dizziness along with:
- a head injury
- a headache
- a neck ache
- a high fever
- blurred vision
- hearing loss
- difficulty speaking
- numbness or tingling
- droopiness of the eye or mouth
- loss of consciousness
- chest pain
- ongoing vomiting
These symptoms could indicate a serious health problem, so
it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
to expect during your appointment
Your doctor can narrow down the cause of dizziness and any
other symptoms by performing a physical examination. They’ll ask you questions
about your dizziness, including:
- when it occurs
- in what situations
- the severity of symptoms
- other symptoms that occur with the dizziness
Your doctor may also check your eyes and ears, do a
neurological physical exam, observe your posture, and perform tests to check
balance. Depending on the suspected cause, an imaging test such as a CT scan or MRI might be
In some cases, no cause for dizziness is determined.
Treatment for dizziness focuses on the underlying cause. In
most cases, home remedies and medical treatments can control the cause of
dizziness. For example:
- Inner-ear issues may be managed with medications
and at-home exercises that can help control balance.
- BPV can be resolved with maneuvers that can help
alleviate symptoms. Surgery is an option for patients whose BPV is not
- Meniere’s disease is treated with a healthful low-salt
diet, occasional injections, or ear surgery.
- Migraines are treated with medications and
lifestyle changes, such as learning to identify and avoid migraine triggers.
- Medication and anxiety-reducing techniques can
help with anxiety disorders.
- Drinking plenty of fluids can help when
dizziness is caused by excessive exercise, heat, or dehydration.
Outlook for dizziness
Most cases of dizziness clear up on their own once the
underlying cause is treated. In rare cases, dizziness can be a sign of a more
serious health problem.
Dizziness may result in 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 an episode of dizziness
coming on. If you become dizzy, stop driving immediately or find a safe place
to steady yourself until it passes.
What you can do about dizziness
Follow these tips if you have recurrent bouts of dizziness:
- Sit or
lie down immediately when you feel dizzy and rest until the dizziness goes
away. This can prevent the possibility of losing your balance, which may
lead to falling and serious injury.
- Use a
cane or walker for stability, if necessary.
use handrails when walking up or down the stairs.
activities that improve balance, such as yoga and Tai Chi.
- Avoid moving
or switching positions suddenly.
driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you frequently experience
dizziness without warning.
caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Using these substances may trigger
dizziness or make it worse.
- Drink at
least eight glass of water a day, get seven hours or more of sleep, and
avoid stressful situations.
- Eat a
healthful diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins to
help prevent dizziness.
- If you
suspect your dizziness is being caused by a medication, talk to your
doctor about lowering the dose or switching to another medication.
an over-the-counter medication, such as meclizine
(Antivert) or an antihistamine, if you experience nausea along with
dizziness. These medications may cause drowsiness, so don’t use them when
you need to be active or productive.
in a cool place and drink water if your dizziness is being caused by
overheating or dehydration.
Always talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about the frequency
or severity of your dizziness.