Dizziness (Dizzy) (cont.)
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.
In this Article
- Dizziness facts
- 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 vertigo diagnosed?
- How is dizziness treated?
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). Symptoms may worsen when changing position from lying down or sitting, to standing up.
In addition to feeling dizzy, associated symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- 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) due to decreased production or increased destruction of red blood cells
- Bleeding may cause anemia due to red blood cell loss
- Dehydration (loss of water in the body) often occurs with infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea. 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 cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke (a medical emergency).
- Side effects of certain medications used to control blood pressure and heart rate. Examples include:
- 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.
- Nitroglycerin 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 also cause other blood vessels in the body to dilate, decreasing blood pressure.
- Diuretics that can cause dehydration
- ACE inhibitors that slow the heart rate, and
- Medications for erectile dysfunction (sildenafil [Viagra, Revatio], tadalafil [Cialis], and vardenafil [Levitra, Staxyn ODT], avanafil [Stendra]) that can dilate blood vessels.
- Alcohol use
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