• 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


    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