Feeling Dizzy? There Are Some Common Culprits

Feeling Dizzy? There Are Some Common Culprits

Feeling Dizzy? There Are Some Common Culprits

It’s hard to ignore a dizzy feeling. The room spinning will get your attention fast. Feeling off balance is scary. And no one wants to feel lightheaded, like you might faint.

There are differences between being dizzy and lightheaded. Whatever you call it, it’s not unusual, but it is worth noting. And it’s important to find what’s behind it and how to know when you need to get help.

People may feel dizzy in many situations. You might feel dizzy along with feeling anxious or stressed. Or if you’re having a migraine. Dizziness sometimes goes with motion sickness.

Other situations are common, and have simple fixes, says Harvard Medical Schoolleaving site icon

It might happen if you’re sick, too hot, or not eating or drinking enough. Without enough fluids, your blood pressure may drop. Then your brain doesn’t get enough blood, causing lightheadedness. If you’re dizzy but not sick, drinking more water and having something to eat may help.

Drug Side Effects
Some medicines can make you feel dizzy, especially those that lower your blood pressure. Diuretics, which make you urinate more, are one well-known cause of dizziness. Taking too much of a drug can cause dizziness. Or you may need a different drug or different dose. Talk to your doctor.

Medical Treatments
Some medical treatments, like chemotherapy, also cause dizziness. If that’s the case, tell your doctor that you’ve been experiencing dizziness.

Low Blood Sugar
When your brain responds to low blood sugar, you may feel lightheaded or even confused. Sipping juice or eating something may help. But if this happens often, talk to your doctor.

Ear Problems
Two common ear issues are infections and vertigo. Both issues are related to the canals in your ear that help you keep your balance. Meniere’s disease leaving site icon can also cause dizziness. Meniere’s may also cause symptoms of pressure or ringing in your ears or hearing loss.

More Serious Problems
Feeling lightheaded is one sign of a heart attack and stroke. So if you’re older, have high blood pressure, or have had a previous heart attack or stroke, get help right away if you feel light headed or dizzy. Learn the other signs of heart attack and stroke.

Less often, dizziness can signal a brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease or other critical health issue. So it isn’t a health symptom to be ignored, especially if it happens for more than a few days.

Dizzy spells may just be annoying. Or they might mean more. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.

Sources: Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms, leaving site icon American Heart Association; Lightheaded? Top 5 reasons you might feel woozy, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2018; Why Am I Dizzy?, leaving site icon WebMD, 2018

Originally published 1/13/2020; Revised 2022

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs to your family and finding the new normal!  

  • My 15 year old son was complaining about feeling dizzy and his eyes were "messing with him" in March of 2019.  I chalked it up to low blood sugar and dehydration.  Then he became nauseous and started vomiting (further supporting dehydration). My mom suggested it could be a tumor before, but I blew it off because it seemed so extreme. A week later we ended up at the hospital with a diagnosis of a very rare brain cancer. I don't know if anyone will listen to this, but I have to say it.  Please don't take these symptoms lightly.  A quick checkup and scan can show answers.  At first they thought my son's issue was carbon monoxide poisoning because his heart rate and oxygen level was so low, but a scan showed it was because the extra fluid and pressure in his brain (hydrocephalus). He came close to dying from what I thought was simply being a teenager not drinking enough and not eating right.  He underwent 4 brain surgeries, finished chemo and radiation, and is now trying to find a new normal.  Listen to your body and get checked!