13 Reasons You're Dizzy—and How To Fix It

Find out what's really causing your dizzy spell, and when to talk to your healthcare provider.

It might be normal to feel a little dizzy when finishing up a grueling workout or maybe from standing up too quickly, but if you're getting wobbly throughout the day, it could indicate a more serious issue.

Dizziness can make you feel lightheaded, woozy, and unstable. It can happen when there's an issue with sensory organs (the eyes and ears in particular) and, in extreme cases, can even lead to fainting, nausea, and vomiting. It's a symptom of many disorders, making the list of potential dizziness causes pretty long.

Having an occasional bout of dizziness is fairly common, but if you notice chronic episodes or your dizziness lasts for a substantial length of time, it's a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider.

Here's what you should know about some of the causes of dizziness and how to alleviate those nagging symptoms.

Inner Ear Problems

Vertigo affects balance and coordination and is commonly caused by a problem with the inner ear. It causes a spinning sensation, making it feel much like motion sickness or as if you're tilted to one side.

The most common cause of vertigo is an inner-ear problem called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), according to a 2014 article in Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice.

As the National Library of Medicine explains, the inner ear has very sensitive tubes filled with fluid, and when you move, the fluid in these tubes moves. That helps your brain keep track of your body's position.

But, if small calcium crystals (called canaliths) break free and float around in these tubes, your brain gets mixed signals. That causes you to feel like you are spinning or that everything around you is spinning.

One thing an ear, nose, and throat specialist can try to help you with vertigo is a simple repositioning exercise called the Epley maneuver. This series of head movements are used to move the crystals out of your inner-ear tubes to stop the symptoms.

Meniere's disease (MD) is another common inner ear disorder that causes attacks of vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. It is thought to be related to excess fluid buildup in the ear, per the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Medications, dietary and behavioral changes, physical therapy, hearing aids, and surgery are used to treat Meniere's disease.

Migraines

Migraines can be another severely disabling cause of dizziness. Symptoms also include intense head pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

If you suffer from migraines, it's helpful to know some common warning signs, so you can prepare for or try to prevent one. 

Your healthcare provider will also find it helpful if you keep track of your symptoms as to when they occur, what they feel like, and how long they last.

Blood Pressure Drops

"When you get up too quickly from a sitting or lying position, and your blood doesn't travel as quickly up to your head, you will experience a 'head rush' feeling," Sherry Ross, MD, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told Health. "Medically, this is known as orthostatic hypotension, where there is drastic drop in blood pressure when you stand up."

You might also notice feeling faint or confused or experience blurry vision, added Dr. Ross—but it's usually nothing to worry about. However, if it happens often, consider speaking with your healthcare provider.

"It's always best to follow up with your healthcare provider if you experience this symptom more frequently with time or it's associated with fainting," noted Dr. Ross.

Poor Circulation

Poor blood circulation to your brain can cause dizziness, as well as weakness, numbness, and tingling. That's because your brain isn't receiving as much blood as it needs.

Underlying heart conditions could be the reason why your brain isn't getting enough blood. Or, in rare cases, dizziness could be a symptom of a so-called "mini-stroke" or transient ischemic attack (TIA), in which blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked.

Other symptoms of TIA include weakness on one side of the face or body, blurred vision, trouble speaking, and coordination problems, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Though symptoms only last a few minutes, they can indicate the risk of a future stroke. If you experience an attack of dizziness accompanied by any other symptoms of TIA, you'll want to contact your healthcare provider to determine the cause.

Neurological Conditions

Certain neurological conditions, like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis (MS), can be a cause of dizziness.

Parkinson's disease affects the motor system and involves shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, according to the National Library of Medicine. Dizzy spells can happen in those with Parkinson's as a result of low blood pressure, either due to the disease itself or the medication used to treat it, according to the Parkinson's Foundation.

MS is characterized by sensations like numbness, tingling, and weakness. Dizziness or episodes of vertigo can occur in those with MS, making them feel off balance with bouts of lightheadedness and spinning sensations.

Medications

Dizziness can be a side effect of some medications. As a December 2013 article published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics reported, the list of medications that may cause dizziness is rather long:

  • Antibiotics (for treating bacterial infections)
  • Diuretics (for helping your body get rid of salt and water)
  • Anti-hypertensive drugs (for lowering blood pressure)
  • Mucolytics (for thinning mucus)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (for reducing inflammation or swelling)
  • Anti-depressants (for treating depression)
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Anti-fungals (for killing or inactivating fungi)
  • Anti-malarials (for treating malaria)
  • Heavy metals (like arsenic, mercury, and cis-platinum)
  • Anti-psychotics (for managing various psychotic disorders)
  • Parkinsonian drugs

Talk to your prescribing healthcare provider about the medications you're taking if you are experiencing dizziness. Your healthcare provider may be able to adjust your dosage or suggest an alternative treatment that won't produce that side effect.

Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the body doesn't get enough sugar (or glucose). When you're blood sugar is low, you can feel shaky, dizzy, anxious or weak, and "hangry." Low blood sugar can also lead to confusion and difficulty speaking, according to the National Library of Medicine.

If your dizzy spell is related to low blood sugar, grab a snack. Carbohydrates can help bring your blood sugar back up. If this type of dizziness happens often, you'll want to discuss it with your healthcare provider.

Anemia

Getting enough iron is essential, according to the Office on Women's Health. Iron helps you produce red blood cells and maintain a healthy immune system.

Eating iron-rich foods—including meat, eggs, seafood, spinach, and sweet potatoes—can help reduce your risk of an iron deficiency.

Dehydration

When your body is parched, lightheadedness and dizziness can be tied to low blood pressure. If you are dehydrated, you may also be feeling thirsty, urinating and sweating less, feeling tired, having dry skin, and noticing dark-colored urine.

Underlying health conditions (diabetes or high blood pressure, for example) can cause dehydration. So, it's important to discuss any symptoms like dizziness with your healthcare provider as soon as you notice them.

Otherwise, don't stress about drinking eight glasses of water a day. instead, drink when you're thirsty and try adding more water-rich fruits and veggies (like cucumbers and melons) to your diet to boost hydration.

Anxiety Disorders

Think anxiety makes you dizzy? You're not alone: Anxiety can cause not only dizziness, but other physical symptoms like a pounding heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, and shortness of breath, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Avoiding triggers for your anxiety, like caffeine and certain medicines, can prevent this type of dizziness. But some triggers aren't as easy to avoid. In the throes of a panic or anxiety attack, try to focus on slowing your breathing or using a calming mantra. Taking quick and shallow breaths will only worsen lightheadedness or dizziness.

Heatstroke

Heat exposure can lead to dizzy spells and lightheadedness if you're not hydrated or prepared for extreme temperatures.

Heat-related illness can also make you feel nauseated and confused, according to the National Library of Medicine. Heatstroke occurs when the body's core temperature reaches 106 degrees, and it is considered a medical emergency.

Keep hydrated, stay cool, and limit your time in the heat to avoid heatstroke. If you notice someone experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness, help that person out of the sun. And if the symptoms are severe, get that person medical care as soon as possible.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is dizziness that occurs when you are traveling in by car, train, airplane, and boat, according to the National Library of Medicine. Before getting dizzy from motion sickness, you may feel queasy and have cold sweats.

Basically, your brain is getting mixed messages. Your eyes and ears tell your body that you are moving, while your arms and legs tell you that you are sitting still.

Some medications, like Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), can help, as can sitting where you'll have a smoother ride and looking out into the distance.

Food Allergies

When your body's immune system reacts to certain proteins in food, an allergic reaction occurs. Reactions can vary from mild to severe, even life-threatening, symptoms, per the Food and Drug Administration.

Common food allergens include nuts, milk, eggs, soy products, and shellfish. Allergic reactions, and the resulting drop in blood pressure, can cause dizziness.

Try to avoid your trigger foods whenever possible by being especially cautious when dining out. Your healthcare provider may recommend Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or prescribe steroids or other treatments to help mitigate dizziness and other symptoms.

When To Seek Help

If your dizziness comes with persistent headache or vomiting, neck pain, a fever, blurred vision, difficulty hearing and speaking, numbness in the limbs, loss of consciousness, chest pain, or droopiness among facial features, call your healthcare provider immediately.

These dizzy spell causes aren't normal—there's something more serious going on. You will want to get checked by your healthcare provider to figure out where your dizziness is coming from and how to stop it.

A Quick Review

Dizziness or lightheadedness has many possible causes, some more serious than others. If you feel lightheaded, woozy, or unstable, it may be a temporary side effect of your activity (such as motion sickness) or indicative of an underlying disorder (such as neurological conditions).

Whatever the case, it's important to investigate the causes of your dizziness and consult your healthcare provider to determine the reason.

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  2. MedlinePlus. Benign positional vertigo.

  3. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder. Ménière's disease.

  4. MedlinePlus. Transient ischemic attack.

  5. MedlinePlus. Parkinson's disease.

  6. Parkinson's Foundation. Dizziness or fainting.

  7. Chimirri S, Aiello R, Mazzitello C, et al. Vertigo/dizziness as a drugs’ adverse reactionJ Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2013;4(Suppl1):S104-S109. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.120969

  8. MedlinePlus. Hypoglycemia.

  9. Office on Women's Health. Iron-deficiency anemia.

  10. MedlinePlus. Anxiety.

  11. MedlinePlus. Heat illness.

  12. MedlinePlus. Motion sickness.

  13. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Food allergies.

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