What Causes Dizziness With Nausea?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 14, 2021

We've all been there. That spell of dizziness when you get light-headed, off-balance, or feel like you're spinning. If you get nausea along with it, it could be due to problems like vertigo, migraine, or low blood pressure.

Usually, dizziness with nausea isn't serious. But if you have these symptoms and you don't know what caused them, or they happen often, tell your doctor.


Vertigo is the feeling that you're spinning or moving when you're still. A problem with the part of your inner ear that keeps your body balanced causes this symptom.

If you have vertigo, you might also have trouble keeping your balance and throw up.

Vertigo sometimes goes away on its own. If not, your doctor will treat the cause of the problem.

Some medicines can ease your dizziness. So can an exercise called the Epley maneuver, which involves moving your head into a different position.

If your dizziness is severe, call your doctor. You should also see them if you:


Alcohol Use

Drinking too much can lead to a bad case of the spins. The reason you feel dizzy is that alcohol thins your blood, which changes the balance of fluid in your inner ear. And the dizziness can make you feel nauseated. The alcohol can also irritate your stomach, which adds to the nausea.

If you've had too much to drink, you might also have symptoms such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Red face
  • Double vision
  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed reflexes

To avoid these problems, limit how much alcohol you drink. If you want to stop drinking but can't, get help from your doctor or a program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Get medical help right away if you or someone you're with has symptoms like these after drinking alcohol:

  • Trouble staying awake
  • Slow breathing
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Throwing up over and over again

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is dizziness and nausea when you ride in a car, train, airplane, boat, or amusement park ride. Some people get it just from watching TV or a movie. The feeling happens when there is a conflict between what you see and how your body senses movement.

Motion sickness also causes symptoms like these:

  • Throwing up
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Crankiness

To prevent motion sickness, ask your doctor for suggestions of medicines that you can take before you travel by plane, car, or boat. Don't eat a big meal before you go, and drink lots of water along the way. Sit next to a window and look out into the distance.


Morning sickness and dizziness are common early signs of pregnancy. Both symptoms are likely due to hormone changes.

Other signs that you're pregnant are:

Call your doctor if you get these signs of severe nausea (hyperemesis gravidarum):

  • Throw up more than three or four times a day, or you can't keep any food down
  • Have a dry mouth and you don't pee much
  • Lose more than 5 pounds
  • Belly or pelvic pain and cramping
  • Fever

Throwing up too much can dehydrate you. You may need to get fluids through an IV in a hospital.

Anxiety Attack

An anxiety or panic attack happens when you're faced with extreme stress and your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. The cause is emotional, but the symptoms are physical.

Along with dizziness and nausea, a panic attack can cause symptoms like:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shaking
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Feeling hot or cold
  • Sweating

The panic attack should stop on its own. If you often get these attacks, talk therapy and medication may help.

An anxiety attack can feel like a heart attack. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Call your doctor or 911 if you:

  • Suddenly feel anxious for no reason
  • Still have symptoms after a few minutes
  • Also have chest pain or can't catch your breath

Low Blood Sugar

Sugar (glucose) is your body's main source of fuel. When your blood sugar dips too low, you'll feel shaky, dizzy, and nauseated. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is common in people who take medicine for diabetes.

Other symptoms of low blood sugar are:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Pale skin
  • Headache
  • Crankiness or confusion

Eat fast-acting carbs like these to raise your blood sugar:

  • Fruit juice
  • Soda
  • Honey
  • Hard candy, such as suckers or jelly beans

Once your blood sugar comes back up, eat a snack or a meal to keep it stable.

Call your doctor or 911 if your blood sugar doesn't go up after you eat something sweet.


Migraine is a type of headache that causes severe and throbbing pain, often on one side of the head. Some people feel dizzy or nauseated when they get one of these headaches.

Some other symptoms you might have with a migraine are:

  • Spots or flashes of light called aura
  • Feel sensitive to light, sound, and smells
  • Blurred vision

Your doctor can suggest medicines to prevent and treat migraine headaches.

Get medical help right away if:

  • Your pain is intense, or it feels like the worst headache of your life
  • You have a stiff neck, fever, seizures, double vision, weakness, or trouble speaking
  • The headache started after a head injury, or when you coughed, sneezed, or strained

Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when a clot blocks blood flow to the heart. The lack of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood can damage the heart muscle. Dizziness and nausea can be symptoms.

This is a medical emergency that needs fast treatment. Call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you have symptoms like:

  • Pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest that may spread to your neck, jaw, or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue

Doctors treat a heart attack with medicines that break up blood clots and stop new ones from forming. Surgery can clear or bypass the blockage.

Brain Tumor

Rarely, dizziness and nausea are signs of a brain tumor. Other symptoms are:

  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Changes in your vision, hearing, or sense of smell
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of balance

Treatment depends on the size and type of tumor. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are all possible treatments.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • New or severe headaches
  • Vision loss, blurred vision, or double vision
  • Seizures for the first time in your life
  • Changes in your balance
  • Trouble speaking

Show Sources

SOURCES: "The Spins From Drinking Too Much."

American Diabetes Association: "Hypoglycemia."

American Migraine Foundation: "Headache 'Red Flags': When to See Your Doctor."

Cancer.Net: "Brain Tumor: Symptoms and Signs," "Brain Tumor: Types of Treatment."

Cleveland Clinic: "Dizziness," "Dizziness: Possible Causes," "Pregnancy: Am I Pregnant?"

Columbia University: "Suddenly, drinking alcohol makes me sick!" "Motion Sickness."

Intermountain Healthcare: "Anxiety Disorder."

JDRF: "Type 1 Diabetes Low Blood Sugar Symptoms."

March of Dimes: "Morning Sickness."

Mayo Clinic: "Brain tumor: Symptoms & causes," "Dizziness," "Heart attack," "Hypoglycemia," "Migraine," "Symptoms: Dizziness -- When to see a doctor."

National Health Service (UK): "Vertigo."

The University of Texas at Austin: "Alcohol Overdose: What Should You Do?"

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Vertigo."

University of Michigan Health: "How Anxiety Can Fuel a Panic Attack -- And What To Do Next."

Victoria State Government: "Motion sickness."

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