Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Table of Contents

Definition

Dizziness is a term that is often used to describe two different symptoms: lightheadedness and vertigo.

Light-headedness is a feeling like you might faint.

Vertigo is a feeling that you are spinning or moving, or that the the world is spinning around you. See also: Vertigo-associated disorders


Alternative Names

Light-headedness - dizzy; Loss of balance; Vertigo


Considerations

Most causes of dizziness are not serious and either quickly get better on their own or are easily treated.


Common Causes

Light-headedness occurs when your brain does not get enough blood. This may occur if:

  • You have a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Your body does not have enough water (is dehydrated) because of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and other conditions
  • You get up too quickly after sitting or lying down (this is more common in older people)

Light-headedness may also occur if you have the flu, low blood sugar, a cold, or allergies.

More serious conditions that can lead to light-headedness include:

  • Heart problems, such as a heart attack or abnormal heart beat
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding inside the body
  • Shock (extreme drop in blood pressure)

If any of these serious disorders is present, you will usually also have symptoms like chest pain, a feeling of a racing heart, loss of speech, change in vision, or other symptoms.

Vertigo may be due to:

  • Benign positional vertigo , a spinning feeling that occurs when you move your head
  • Labyrinthitis , a viral infection of the inner ear that usually follows a cold or flu
  • Meniere's disease , a common inner ear problem

Other causes of lightheadedness or vertigo may include:

  • Use of certain medications
  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures
  • Brain tumor
  • Bleeding in the brain


Review Date: 05/02/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)