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What Causes Dizziness and Fatigue? 9 Possible Causes

Overview

Dizziness is a word that describes the sensation of spinning while being off-balance. To explain to your doctor exactly how you feel, you can use these more specific terms:

  • disequilibrium is when you feel unsteady
  • lightheaded means you feel faint or woozy
  • vertigo is a spinning sensation when you aren’t moving

Many different conditions can make you feel both dizzy and tired. Sometimes these symptoms are temporary, or they might come and go. If you often feel dizzy and tired, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Untreated dizziness and fatigue can cause a fall. It can also increase your risk of getting into an accident while driving.

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Hypoglycemia

1. Low blood sugar

Your body needs sugar, also known as glucose, for energy. When your blood sugar level drops, you can become dizzy, shaky, and tired.

Low blood sugar is often a side effect of insulin and other drugs used to treat diabetes. These drugs lower blood sugar, but if the dose isn’t right your blood sugar can drop too much.

You can also get hypoglycemia if you don’t have diabetes. It can occur if you haven’t eaten in a while or if you drink alcohol without eating.

Other symptoms of low blood sugar are:

  • fast heartbeat
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • hunger
  • irritability
  • confusion

A fast-acting source of carbohydrates can relieve low blood sugar. Drink a glass of fruit juice or suck on a hard candy. Follow that up with a more nourishing meal to raise your blood sugar levels. If you often get hypoglycemia, you might need to adjust your diabetes medicine. Or you could eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This will help keep your blood sugar level steady.

Hypotension

2. Low blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against blood vessel walls as it circulates through your body. When your blood pressure drops you can have symptoms like dizziness or lightheadedness, and fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • thirst
  • blurred vision
  • fast and shallow breathing
  • pale, clammy skin
  • trouble concentrating

The following conditions can cause your blood pressure to drop:

  • heart problems
  • medications
  • serious injury
  • dehydration
  • vitamin deficiencies

Treating these issues can bring your blood pressure back up to normal. Other ways to increase low blood pressure are:

  • adding more salt to your diet
  • drinking more water to increase your blood volume
  • wearing support stockings
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Anemia

3. Anemia

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all your organs and tissues. When you have anemia, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or these cells don’t work well enough. A lack of oxygen can make you feel dizzy or tired.

Other signs of anemia are:

  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • fast or uneven heartbeat
  • headache
  • cold hands or feet
  • pale skin
  • chest pain

Bleeding, nutrient deficiencies, and bone marrow failure are all possible causes of anemia.

Migraines

4. Migraine headaches

Migraines are intense, throbbing headaches that last from a few hours to a few days. Along with the headache, you may experience symptoms that include:

  • vision changes, such as seeing flashing lights and colors
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • lightheadedness
  • fatigue

People who get migraines can experience dizziness and vertigo, even when they don’t have a headache. The vertigo can last for a few minutes to a few hours.

Avoiding migraine triggers like alcohol, caffeine, and dairy foods is one way to prevent these headaches. You can also take migraine medicines, which come in two forms:

  • Preventive medicines like antidepressants and antiseizure drugs prevent a migraine before it starts.
  • Abortive medicines like NSAID pain relievers and triptans relieve migraines once they start.

Learn more: The differences between migraines and headaches »

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Medications

5. Medications

Certain medicines can cause dizziness and fatigue as side effects. These include:

  • antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) and trazodone (Desyrel)
  • antiseizure drugs such as divalproex (Depakote), gabapentin (Neurontin, Active-PAC with Gabapentin), and pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • blood pressure lowering drugs, such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics
  • muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Fexmid, Flexeril) and metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • sleeping pills such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Unisom, Sominex), temazepam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zolpidem (Ambien)

If you’re on one of these medicines and it’s making you dizzy or tired, ask your doctor if you can lower the dose or switch to another drug.

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Arrhythmia

6. Abnormal heart rhythms

Normally, your heart beats in a familiar “lub-dub” rhythm. When you have an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, your heart beats too slow or too fast. It might also skip beats.

Besides dizziness and fatigue, other symptoms of an arrhythmia include:

  • fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain

Your doctor can treat heart rhythm problems with drugs like blood thinners or blood pressure medicines. Avoid substances like caffeine, alcohol, and cold medicines. These things can make your heart go out of rhythm.

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CFS

7. Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes overwhelming tiredness, even after you’ve slept well. Symptoms of CFS include dizziness and trouble keeping your balance.

You might also have symptoms that include:

  • sleep problems
  • trouble remembering and concentrating
  • muscle or joint pain
  • headache
  • allergies and sensitivities to foods, medicines, or other substances

CFS can be hard to treat because it’s different for everyone. Your doctor will treat your individual symptoms with therapies like medicine and counseling.

Vestibular neuronitis

8. Vestibular neuronitis

An infection like a cold or the flu can inflame the vestibular nerve in your inner ear. This nerve sends sensory messages to your brain to keep you upright and balanced. Swelling of the vestibular nerve can cause dizziness and vertigo. You might also feel fatigued.

Other symptoms of vestibular neuronitis include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • trouble concentrating
  • blurred vision

A virus usually causes vestibular neuritis. Antibiotics won’t help, but the dizziness and other symptoms should improve within a few days.

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Dehydration

9. Dehydration

Dehydration is when your body doesn’t have enough fluid. You can become dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water. This is especially true while you’re outside in hot weather or exercising.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • little to no urine
  • confusion

To treat dehydration, drink fluids like water or an electrolyte solution like Gatorade. If you’re severely dehydrated, you may need to go to the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids.

See a doctor

Seeking help

If you’ve had repeated episodes of dizziness and fatigue, see your doctor to find out what’s causing these symptoms. Call your doctor or go to an emergency room right away if you have more serious symptoms, such as:

  • fainting or loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • blurred vision or vision loss
  • severe vomiting
  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • high fever
  • trouble speaking

Outlook

Outlook

Your outlook depends on what condition is causing your dizziness and fatigue. If you have an infection, it should get better in a few days. Migraines and CFS are chronic. But you can manage them with medicines and other treatments.

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Prevention

Prevention

In general, here are a few things you can do to prevent dizziness and fatigue:

What to do
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day so you don’t get dehydrated.
  • Avoid or limit drinking alcohol.
  • When you move from a lying or seated position to standing, get up slowly.

To prevent a fall or accident when you’re feeling dizzy, don’t drive or operate heavy machinery. Stay seated or in bed until the dizziness passes.

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