Why Am I Dizzy?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on January 07, 2024
9 min read

Dizziness is a feeling of being lightheaded, unsteady, and faint. It can make you feel like the world is spinning. Sometimes the feeling is mild and goes away quickly. Other times it can be severe and come along with other symptoms, like a headache and throwing up. 

Many parts of your body – including your eyes, brain, inner ear, and nerves in your feet and spine – work together to keep you balanced. When a part of that system is off, you can feel dizzy. 

Many things can cause dizziness, such as:

  • Inner ear problems, like vertigo
  • Inner ear infections
  • Being low in certain nutrients
  • Heart problems
  • Concussion
  • Diseases that affect your brain
  • Dehydration
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Some medications
  • Motion sickness
  • Low blood sugar

If it feels like the room is spinning around you and you have trouble staying steady on your feet, you might have a type of dizziness called vertigo. Vertigo can be a symptom of several health conditions affecting your inner ear and your vestibular system. The vestibular system is what helps you sense your body's position in space, coordinate your movements, and stay upright and balanced.   

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo 

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common inner ear disorder. With BPPV, tiny bits of calcium in part of your inner ear get loose and move to places they don't belong. The system doesn't work the way it should and sends your brain the wrong signals.

It's often caused by the natural breakdown of cells that happens with age. A head injury can cause it, too.

You'll feel it briefly when you tilt or turn your head, and especially when you roll over in bed or sit up. BPPV isn't serious and usually goes away on its own. If not – or you'd like to help it along – it can be treated with special head exercises to get the pieces of calcium back in place. Your doctor can help you perform these exercises. 

Meniere's disease 

People with Meniere'sdisease have too much fluid in their inner ear. This condition brings on intense periods of vertigo that can last hours. You may feel fullness or pressure in one ear. Other symptoms include ringing in your ears, hearing loss, and nausea. You may feel exhausted after the attack passes.

Doctors don't know what causes it, and there's no cure for it. It's usually treated with diet changes (a low-salt diet) and medicine to control the dizziness.

Inner ear infection

Inflammation of the nerves in your ears due to infection also causes vertigo. Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are two types of infections that can cause problems in the inner ear. Vestibular neuritis affects your vestibular nerve, and labyrinthitis affects both your vestibular nerve and your cochlear nerve – a nerve in your ear involved in hearing. These infections are often caused by a virus.

Other causes of vertigo

Some other causes of vertigo include:

  • A noncancerous tumor that puts pressure on the vestibular nerve called an acoustic neuroma
  • Some medications that hurt the inner ear, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, diuretics, or salicylates 
  • Head injury
  • Stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Vestibular migraine

Dizziness can sometimes be a sign of a heart problem. It could be an early sign of heart disease or a more serious sign of a heart attack. 

If your arteries are blocked because of atherosclerosis, for example, your blood flow slows down and doesn’t circulate through your body as it should. Your heart tries to pump harder and faster to help. This might make you feel a racing heart and dizziness, as well as other symptoms.

Heart palpitations and dizziness

Heart palpitations – the feeling that your heart is beating faster than normal or fluttering – is fairly common. But if you feel your heart fluttering and dizziness together, this could be a sign of problems with your heart. You should see your doctor as soon as possible if this happens.

Dizziness can be a sign of low blood pressure, or hypotension. Your brain needs a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood to function properly. Your heart provides this by pumping the blood throughout your body. 

This pumping action causes pressure as it pushes the blood through the arteries. This is similar to when you turn on a garden hose. As the water fills the hose, it puts pressure on the hose itself. If the water pressure is too low, the water can’t reach as far.

If your blood pressure drops too low, the blood doesn’t circulate and can’t reach your brain. This can cause dizziness and fainting, especially if you move suddenly from a sitting to a standing position.

Other heart- and circulation-related problems can cause dizziness, such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Sudden severe blood loss
  • Standing up quickly, particularly for older people
  • Blood clots
  • Clogged arteries
  • Irregular heartbeat

Dizziness is quite common and has a wide range of other causes.


Many people don't drink enough fluids to replace the liquid they lose every day when they sweat, breathe, and pee. 

When you're very dehydrated, your blood pressure can drop, your brain may not get enough oxygen, and you'll feel dizzy. Other symptoms of dehydration include thirstiness, tiredness, and dark urine.

To help avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water and other unsweetened beverages, and limit coffee, tea, and soda, which can increase dehydration.


Several drugs list dizziness as a possible side effect. Check with your doctor if you take:

  • Antibiotics, including gentamicin and streptomycin
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Blood pressure medicine
  • Sedatives

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

People with diabetes need to check the amount of sugar (glucose) in their blood often. You can get dizzy if it drops too low. That also can cause hunger, shakiness, sweating, and confusion. Some people without diabetes also have trouble with low blood sugar.

Motion sickness

If you get motion sickness, either from riding in a car, being on a boat, or even going on a carnival ride, you may get dizzy as well as sick to your stomach.

Concussions (traumatic brain injuries)

If you’ve had a strong impact to your head, you are at risk of a concussion – a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A blow to the head could be caused by many things, such as a fall down stairs, certain sports (especially sports like football), or even if your head and neck are shaken badly, like in a car accident.

One of the signs of a concussion is dizziness. You could also have:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion

Concussions should be taken seriously. If you think you might have one, seek emergency care as soon as possible.

Anxiety and stress

If you are anxious, you could feel several physical symptoms, including dizziness. Doctors don’t know why this happens, but they think that somehow the areas in the brain responsible for anxiety and dizziness interact with each other, and that interaction results in dizziness.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is very serious. Every year, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. need emergency treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, and at least 420 die. One of the most common symptoms is dizziness, along with:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

If you have any of these symptoms, leave where you are right away and call 911.

Low iron levels

Iron is an essential mineral that helps your blood carry oxygen throughout your body. Low iron levels, called iron deficiency anemia, can cause dizziness, as well as:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling that your hands and feet are cold
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • A hard time concentrating
  • Bruising easily
  • Headaches

There are many reasons you could be low in iron, including:

  • Internal bleeding, like in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract or urinary tract
  • Losing blood after a serious injury or during surgery
  • Having heavy menstrual periods
  • Blood loss after childbirth or miscarriage
  • Giving blood donations too frequently
  • Certain diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Kidney disease

Feeling dizzy can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms include feeling like:

  • Everything around you is moving or spinning and you’re not.
  • You’re lightheaded and going to faint.
  • You can’t keep your balance.
  • You're a little confused or foggy.
  • You're nauseated.

Occasional dizziness often goes away on its own. In general, if you feel dizzy, try lying down for a few minutes. Sit up very slowly, without sudden movements. Then slowly stand up. This may help. 

Here are some more tips and home remedies for dizziness, depending on what caused it:

Dehydration. If you are overheated or dehydrated, drink fluids, move to a cool or shaded spot, and rest. Water is good, but you may want to try a sports drink, which has electrolytes and minerals the can speed hydration.

Medications. Check your drugs for side effects to see if they could be causing your dizziness. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about your dizziness. If it’s caused by an over-the-counter medication, the pharmacist may be able to suggest another type. If it’s a prescription medication, there may be tips on when and how to take the drug to lower the risk of dizziness. If not, then speak with your doctor to see if there is another medication that can replace it.

Low blood sugar. A quick fix is to eat or drink something with sugar, like juice or a hard candy. But if you have diabetes, speak with your doctor about the best way to handle low blood sugar.

Motion sickness. It’s not always possible to avoid motion sickness. If you do get motion sickness, you can:

  • Sit in the front seat of a car or as close to the front as possible in a bus. Look out at the horizon.
  • Choose window seats when possible.
  • Lie down if you’re on a boat.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Sip water to stay hydrated.
  • Eat small portions of food frequently.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Suck on ginger candy or other types of lozenges.

If your dizziness is caused by something more serious, like a concussion, illness, or an injury, you need to see a doctor. You may need treatment for what is causing it, like antibiotics for an ear infection.

It’s not unusual to feel dizzy once in a while, especially if it’s caused by motion sickness or being out in the sun for too long. But if you have frequent episodes, the dizziness doesn’t go away, or it’s interfering with your daily activities, speak to your doctor so you can find out what is causing it.

If you are dizzy after hitting your head, no matter how lightly, or you have any of these symptoms along with the dizziness, get emergency medical care. Do not drive yourself to the hospital, though, because the dizziness could cause you to have an accident.

  • A hard time breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Numbness or weakness of your arms, legs, or face
  • A hard time walking
  • A hard time speaking or slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • A hard time hearing
  • Continuous vomiting

When should you worry about dizziness?

If you get dizzy once in a while and it goes away, you probably don’t need to worry. But if you get dizzy a lot and if the dizziness lasts for long periods, it could be caused by a more serious problem, like an ear infection or medication side effect. Dizziness after a head injury is an emergency, so seek help right away if this happens.

What are the causes of dizziness?

There are many possible causes of dizziness, from simple things like spinning too much on a carnival ride to motion sickness. But there are some serious causes as well, such as a head injury, blood loss, or having low blood sugar levels.

What are the red flags for dizziness?

You should be concerned about being dizzy if it happens after a head injury, it happens often, lasts long, or you have other symptoms as well. These include having a sudden, severe headache, confusion, double vision, or numbness or weakness in your arms, legs, or face, among others.

How do I stop feeling dizzy?

Try lying down for a few minutes and closing your eyes. Then sit up slowly, taking your time. Finally, stand up slowly – don’t make sudden or quick movements.