Dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded or unbalanced. It affects the sensory organs, specifically the eyes and ears, so it can sometimes cause fainting. However, dizziness isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of various disorders. Vertigo and disequilibrium may cause a feeling of dizziness, but those two terms describe different symptoms. Vertigo is characterized by a spinning sensation, like the room is moving around. It may also feel like motion sickness or as if you’re leaning to one side. On the other hand, disequilibrium is a loss of balance or equilibrium. True dizziness is the feeling of lightheadedness or nearly fainting. Dizziness is common and its underlying cause usually isn’t serious. Occasional dizziness is not something to worry about. However, you should call your doctor if you’re experiencing repeated episodes of dizziness for no reason or for a prolonged period.
People experiencing dizziness may describe it as any of a number of sensations, such as:
- A false sense of motion or spinning (vertigo)
- Lightheadedness or feeling faint
- Unsteadiness or a loss of balance
- A feeling of floating or heavy-headedness
These feelings may be triggered or worsened by walking, standing up or moving your head. Dizziness may be accompanied by nausea or be so sudden or severe that you need to sit or lie down. The episode may last seconds or days and may recur.
Causes of Dizziness
Sometimes, dizziness is used to describe vertigo, a motion and balance issue usually caused by an inner ear disorder. Vertigo is a feeling that you’re standing still but the world around you is spinning or tilting. Both vertigo and dizziness can cause nausea or vomiting when severe.
Occasional dizziness can be caused by:
- A quick drop in blood pressure
- Illness or infection
- Anxiety or stress
- Some medications
Alcohol and tobacco can also cause you to feel lightheaded from time to time. Changing your diet, drinking more water, and treating any illnesses or allergies may help resolve your symptoms.
Treatments for Dizziness
Treatment for dizziness focuses on the underlying cause. In most cases, home remedies and medical treatments can control the cause of dizziness. Here are some:
- Inner-ear issues may be managed with medications and at-home exercises that can help control balance.
- BPV can be resolved with maneuvers that can help alleviate symptoms. Surgery is an option for patients whose BPV is not otherwise controlled.
- Meniere’s disease is treated with a healthful low-salt diet, occasional injections, or ear surgery.
- Migraines are treated with medications and lifestyle changes, such as learning to identify and avoid migraine triggers.
- Drinking plenty of fluids can help when dizziness is caused by excessive exercise, heat, or dehydration.
Factors that may increase your risk of getting dizzy include:
- Age. Older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that cause dizziness, especially a sense of imbalance. They're also more likely to take medications that can cause dizziness.
- A past episode of dizziness. If you've experienced dizziness before, you're more likely to get dizzy in the future.
Most cases of dizziness clear up once the underlying cause is treated. In rare cases, dizziness can be a sign of a more serious health problem. Dizziness may result in complications when it causes fainting or a loss of balance. This can be especially dangerous when a person is driving. Use caution if you feel an episode of dizziness coming on. If you become dizzy, stop driving immediately or find a safe place to steady yourself until it passes.