Dizziness: Lightheadedness and Vertigo - Topic Overview
Dizziness is a word that is often used to
describe two different feelings. It is important to know exactly what you mean
when you say "I feel dizzy," because it can help you and your doctor narrow down
the list of possible problems.
- Lightheadedness is a feeling that you are about
to faint or "pass out." Although you may feel dizzy, you do not feel as though
you or your surroundings are moving. Lightheadedness often goes away or
improves when you lie down. If lightheadedness gets worse, it can lead to a
feeling of almost fainting or a fainting spell (syncope). You
may sometimes feel nauseated or vomit when you are
- Vertigo is a feeling that you or your surroundings are
moving when there is no actual movement. You may feel as though you are
off balance, spinning, whirling, falling, or tilting. When you have
severe vertigo, you may feel very nauseated or vomit.
You may have trouble walking or standing, and you may lose your balance and
Although dizziness can occur in people of any age, it is more
common among older adults. A fear of dizziness can cause older adults to limit
their physical and social activities. Dizziness can also lead to falls and
It is common to feel lightheaded from
time to time. Brief episodes of lightheadedness are not usually the result of a serious problem. Lightheadedness often is caused by a momentary drop in blood pressure and blood flow to your
head that occurs when you get up too quickly from a seated or lying position
(orthostatic hypotension). Ongoing lightheadedness may mean you have a more serious problem that needs to be evaluated.
has many causes, including:
- Illnesses such as the
flu or colds. Home treatment of your flu and cold symptoms usually will relieve
- Vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, and other illnesses
- Very deep or rapid breathing
- Anxiety and
- The use of tobacco, alcohol, or
A more serious cause of lightheadedness is bleeding. Most of
the time, the location of the bleeding and the need to seek medical care are
obvious. But sometimes bleeding is not obvious (occult bleeding). You may have
small amounts of bleeding in your
digestive tract over days or weeks without noticing
the bleeding. When this happens, lightheadedness and fatigue may be the first
noticeable symptoms that you are losing blood. Heavy menstrual bleeding also
can cause this type of lightheadedness.
Sometimes the cause of
lightheadedness is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia),
which can cause fainting spells (syncope). Unexplained fainting spells need to
be evaluated by a doctor. You can check your heart rate by taking your pulse .
Many prescription and nonprescription
medicines can cause lightheadedness or vertigo. The
degree of lightheadedness or vertigo that a medicine causes will vary.