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Dizziness

Definition

Dizziness is a term that is often used to describe two different symptoms: light-headedness and vertigo.

Light-headedness is a feeling like you might faint.

Vertigo is a feeling that you are spinning or moving, or that the world is spinning around you. See also: Vertigo-associated disorders

Alternative Names

Light-headedness - dizzy; Loss of balance; Vertigo

Considerations

Most causes of dizziness are not serious, and either quickly get better on their own or are easily treated.

Causes

Light-headedness occurs when your brain does not get enough blood. This may occur if:

Light-headedness may also occur if you have the flu, low blood sugar, a cold, or allergies.

More serious conditions that can lead to light-headedness include:

If any of these serious disorders is 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 light-headedness or vertigo may include:

Home Care

If you tend to get light-headed 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 health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

Tests that may be done include:

Your health care provider may prescribe medications to help you feel better, including:

Surgery may be needed if you have Meniere's disease.

Prevention

If you have a cold, the flu, or other viral illness, drink plenty of fluids to prevent getting dehydrated.

References

Post RE, Dickerson LM. Dizziness: a diagnostic approach. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Aug 15;82(4):361-8, 369.

Olshaker JS. Dizziness and vertigo. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’' Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 12.

Baloh RW, Jen J. Hearing and equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 436.



Review Date: 4/14/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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