Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness or weakness. A person may also feel like they are going to faint. It can happen for a short time or happen often and get in the way of daily activities.
It is not the same as vertigo, which is a feeling that the room is spinning.
Causes may be:
- A drop in blood pressure when standing— orthostatic hypotension
- Problems with the nerves
- Health problems that affect how the heart pumps blood to the body
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol use disorder or illegal drug use
- Infection or fever
- Brain injury
- Low blood sugar— hypoglycemia
It may also be caused by certain medicines, such as:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
In some cases, dizziness may be due to decreased blood flow to the brain.
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The risk of this problem is higher in people who have any of the health problems that cause or and those who take certain medicines.
Problems may be:
- Balance problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Vision or hearing problems
- Fast heartbeat
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 medicine may be causing dizziness
- Hearing loss
- A headache that happens with dizziness
- Other symptoms that happen with dizziness
When Should I Call for Medical Help Right Away?
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
Call for emergency medical services right away if you or a loved one has signs of a stroke:
- Face drooping—one side may be numb and smile is uneven
- Arm weakness—one arm will drift down when both are raised
- Speech problems—slurring or cannot repeat a short sentence
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests may be done to look for a cause.
Images may be taken. This can be done with:
Other tests may be:
Treatment will focus on the cause. This may ease dizziness.
It may take time for treatment to work. It may not ease all dizziness. A person can avoid injury by sitting down as soon as dizziness is felt.
Prevention will depend on the cause. Managing chronic health problems may lower the risk.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). ENThealth—American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/benign-paroxysmal-positional-vertigo-bppv. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Dizziness in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/dizziness-in-adults-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Muncie HL, Sirmans SM, et al. Dizziness: Approach to Evaluation and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Feb 1;95(3):154-162.
Stroke symptoms. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 1/26/2021