Dizziness can range from a fleeting, momentary sensation to a severe loss of balance disorder that makes normal functioning impossible. Nearly half of all adults will have an episode of dizziness serious enough to send them to the doctor.
Dizziness generally refers to three specific sensations:
- Faintness. One type of dizziness is described as feeling lightheaded, as if you might pass out.
- Loss of balance. Another type of dizziness is characterized by feeling unsteady on your feet, as if you might fall.
- Vertigo. With vertigo, you feel as if the world is spinning around you or that you yourself are spinning.
Describing your dizziness as precisely as possible will make it easier for your doctor to diagnose the cause and treat it.
Dizziness is often temporary and goes away on its own. These self-care tips may help:
- Move slowly. When you stand up from lying down, move slowly. Many people experience dizziness if they stand up too quickly.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated can help prevent or relieve several types of dizziness.
- Avoid caffeine and tobacco. By restricting blood flow, these substances can make symptoms worse.
Schedule a doctor's appointment
Call your doctor if your dizziness is accompanied by:
- A new, different or severe headache
- Falling or trouble walking
- Hearing loss
Seek emergency medical care
Dizziness can be a symptom of a serious medical problem, such as a heart attack or a stroke. Call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency department if your dizziness is associated with:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in your vision or speech
- Serious head injury
- Leg or arm weakness
- Loss of consciousness that lasts more than just a few minutes
Sept. 11, 2012
- Tusa RJ. Dizziness. Medical Clinics of North America. 2009;93:263.
- Dizziness and motion sickness. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/dizzinessMotionSickness.cfm. Accessed Aug. 10, 2012.
- Flint PW, et al. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05283-2..X0001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05283-2&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 10, 2012.
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2013: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-08373-7..00002-9&isbn=978-0-323-08373-7&about=true&uniqId=343863096-23. Accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
- Kerber KA. Vertigo and dizziness in the emergency department. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 2009;27:39.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. September 4, 2012.