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
Most causes of dizziness are not serious and either quickly get better on their own or are easily treated.
Light-headedness occurs when your brain does not get enough blood. This may occur if:
More serious conditions that can lead to light-headedness include:
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:
Other causes of lightheadedness or vertigo may include:
If you tend to get light-headed when you stand up:
If you have vertigo, the following tips can help prevent your symptoms from becoming worse:
Avoid activities such as driving, operating heavy machinery, and climbing until 1 week after your symptoms disappear. A sudden dizzy spell during these activities can be dangerous.
Call your local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you are dizzy and have:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have:
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Tests that may be done include:
Your health care provider may prescribe medications to help you feel better, including:
Surgery may be needed if you have Meniere's disease.
If you have a cold, the flu, or other viral illness, drink plenty of fluids to prevent getting dehydrated.
Light-headedness - dizzy; Loss of balance; Vertigo
Post RE, Dickerson LM. Dizziness: a diagnostic approach. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Aug 15;82(4):361-8, 369.
Olshaker JS. Dizziness and vertigo. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 12.
Updated 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.
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