Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Introduction to dizziness (feeling dizzy)
- What are some common causes of dizziness?
- Low blood pressure
- Postural or orthostatic hypotension
- High blood pressure
- Endocrine diseases
- Heart conditions
- Vasovagal syncope
- Dizziness and vertigo
- What are the symptoms experienced when a person feels dizzy?
- When should I call the doctor for dizziness?
- How is dizziness diagnosed?
- How is dizziness/vertigo diagnosed?
- How is dizziness treated?
- Dizziness At A Glance
- Patient Comments: Dizziness - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Dizziness - Causes
- Patient Comments: Dizziness - Standing Up
- Patient Comments: Dizziness - Treatment
Introduction to dizziness (feeling dizzy)
Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms that will prompt a person to seek medical care. The term dizziness (or dizzy) means different things to different people, so it is difficult to define. Does "feeling dizzy" mean lightheadedness or the feeling of weakness and almost passing out? Or does it refer to the sensation of vertigo, in which a person feels as if they have just gotten off a merry-go-round?
Dizziness (lightheadedness) is often caused by a decrease in blood supply to the brain, while vertigo may be caused by disturbances of the inner ear and the balance centers of the brain. It is important that the health care practitioner understand what you mean when you complain of dizziness. You may be asked additional questions so that the proper direction can be taken for a diagnosis and treatment.
What are some common causes of dizziness?
While classifying dizziness into lightheadedness and vertigo categories may help understand how the body works, sometimes it is worthwhile to review common reasons why people might complain of dizziness.
Low blood pressure
Dizziness, lightheadedness, and the feeling of passing out is a common complaint in people who have low blood pressure. When the blood pressure is too low, not enough oxygen-rich blood is being delivered to the brain, and its function can be affected. If the brain's blood supply is decreased too much, the person may pass out (syncope).
In addition to feeling dizzy, associated symptoms may include:
- nausea and
- shortness of breath, and
- chest pain.
Low blood pressure may be the result of an underlying illness or disease, or it may be a normal physiologic condition. Some common reasons for low blood pressure include the following:
- Anemia (decreased red
blood cell count)
- Dehydration (loss of
water in the body) often occurs with infections that cause
Fever also can cause a significant amount of water loss due to increased
metabolic rate and excessive sweating
as the body tries to cool itself.
- Heat-related illnesses associated with dehydration such as
heat exhaustion, or
heat stroke (a medical
- Side effects of certain medications used to control blood pressure and heart rate.
- beta blockers
(propranolol [Inderal, Inderal
LA], atenolol [Tenormin],
metoprolol, [Lopressor, Toprol
XL]), which block adrenalin receptors in the heart and may limit the ability of
the heart rate to increase in response to changes of position, decreased red
blood cell count, or dehydration.
and isosorbide mononitrate (Imdur), a long acting nitroglycerin,
are medications that are prescribed to dilate blood vessels in the heart to
treat angina. However, these medications may also cause other blood vessels
in the body to dilate and be unable to respond to the body's needs.
- Diuretics that can cause dehydration
- ACE inhibitors that slow the heart rate, and
- medications for
erectile dysfunction that can dilate blood vessels.
- beta blockers (propranolol [Inderal, Inderal LA], atenolol [Tenormin], metoprolol, [Lopressor, Toprol XL]), which block adrenalin receptors in the heart and may limit the ability of the heart rate to increase in response to changes of position, decreased red blood cell count, or dehydration.
- Alcohol use
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