Dizziness is a term that is often used to describe 2 different symptoms: lightheadedness and vertigo.
Lightheadedness is a feeling that you might faint.
Vertigo is a feeling that you are spinning or moving, or that the world is spinning around you. Vertigo-associated disorders is a related topic.
Lightheadedness - dizzy; Loss of balance; Vertigo
Most causes of dizziness are not serious, and they either quickly get better on their own or are easy to treat.
Lightheadedness occurs when your brain does not get enough blood. This may occur if:
More serious conditions that can lead to light-headedness include:
If any of these serious disorders are present, you will usually also have symptoms like chest pain, a feeling of a racing heart, loss of speech, change in vision, or other symptoms.
Vertigo may be due to:
Other causes of lightheadedness or vertigo may include:
If you tend to get lightheaded when you stand up:
If you have vertigo, the following tips can help prevent your symptoms from becoming worse:
Avoid activities such as driving, operating heavy machinery, and climbing until 1 week after your symptoms disappear. A sudden dizzy spell during these activities can be dangerous.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you are dizzy and have:
Call your health care provider for an appointment if you have:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Tests that may be done include:
Your provider may prescribe medicines to help you feel better, including:
Surgery may be needed if you have Meniere disease.
Baloh RW, Jen JC. Hearing and equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 428.
Chang AK, Dizziness and vertigo. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 16.
Muncie HL, Sirmans SM, James E. Dizziness: approach to evaluation and management. Am Fam Physician. 2017;95(3):154-162. PMID: 28145669 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28145669.
Review Date: 5/14/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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