Lightheadedness is feeling as if you might faint. Your body may feel heavy while your head feels as if it is not getting enough blood. Another way to describe lightheadedness is as a “reeling sensation.” Moreover, lightheadedness may be accompanied by clouded vision and a loss of balance.
While not always cause for concern, lightheadedness can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition and can increase your risk for experiencing a fall. For this reason, you should take caution when you feel lightheaded. Furthermore, lightheadedness often occurs when you move quickly from a seated to a standing position.
This positional change results in decreased blood flow to the brain. This can create a drop in blood pressure that makes you feel faint. You are more likely to experience this condition if you are dehydrated due to illness or insufficient fluid intake. Here is everything you need to know about lightheadedness.
Causes of dizziness
The most common causes of dizziness are:
- Labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection that affects your hearing and balance, and can lead to a severe form of dizziness called vertigo.
- Migraine – dizziness may come on before or after the headache, or even without the headache.
- Stress or anxiety – particularly if you tend to hyperventilate.
- Low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) – which is usually seen in people with diabetes.
- Dehydration or heat exhaustion – dehydration could be due to not drinking enough during exercise, or illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea or fever.
- Chest pain
- Different or really bad headache
- Head injury
- High fever
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden change in speech, vision, or hearing
- Weakness in your leg or arm
These feelings may be triggered or worsened by walking, standing up or moving your head. Your dizziness may also be accompanied by nausea or be so sudden or severe that you need to sit down. The episode may last seconds or days and may reoccur.
If your doctor suspects you are having or may have had a stroke, are older or suffered a blow to the head, he or she may immediately order an MRI or CT scan. Also, most people visiting their doctor because of dizziness will first be asked about their symptoms and medications and then be given a physical examination. During this exam, your doctor will check how you walk and maintain your balance and how the major nerves of your central nervous system are working.
How is lightheadedness treated?
Lightheadedness that is not due to severe blood loss, heart attack, or stroke often subsides with time. Other treatments will address the underlying condition. Treatment for the less-serious causes of lightheadedness may include:
- drinking more water
- receiving intravenous fluids
- eating or drinking something sugary
- drinking fluids containing electrolytes
- lying down or sitting to reduce the elevation of the head relative to the body
Standing up slowly and avoiding sudden changes in posture can help to prevent lightheadedness to some extent. Make sure to drink plenty of water, especially when you are ill or exercising intensely. Avoid bright lights and wear sunglasses when outdoors. Also, avoid substances known to cause lightheadedness, such as alcohol or tobacco. Antihistamines, sedatives, and antinausea medications may also cause lightheadedness. Do not discontinue taking prescription medications without your physician’s recommendation.