What are the Causes of Dizziness?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Causes of dizziness are numerous, and it could be difficult to list them all. It’s also important to describe dizziness. Some people use the term to mean faintness, while others mean loss of balance, trouble concentrating, feeling lightheaded, feeling nauseous, or having the “room spinning” sensation or vertigo. Due to the many things that may be listed as part of being “dizzy,” the number of potential causes increase significantly.

A sudden drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness.
A sudden drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness.

Many of the causes are not serious illnesses, but there are some things that can be. Being dizzy can be a sign of head injury, and anyone talking about having vertigo, nausea, feelings of faintness, confusion or light-headedness after a head injury should be checked for serious brain injury. People who have overdosed on medication or on alcohol may be light-headed. Stroke or heart attack may cause these feelings, as can dehydration, migraines, and some illnesses related to aging like peripheral neuropathy.

Hyperventilation may cause dizziness.
Hyperventilation may cause dizziness.

While it’s important to understand the serious causal factors of this condition, it’s also fair to state that many people get dizzy for explainable and non-dangerous reasons. Taking certain medications may cause this condition, as can being on a cruise ship. Often when people talk about not being able to balance, they may have slight troubles with their inner ear, and the condition may be diagnosed as labyrinthitis. Sometimes people have a condition called Meniere’s disease, which causes excess fluid in the ear and can result in dizzy spells. Depending on cause, medications may help end the feelings.

An ear infection may cause dizziness when lying down.
An ear infection may cause dizziness when lying down.

Some people experience vertigo or spinning feelings when they change positions. This could be a result in blood pressure changes when a person goes from sitting to standing. Alternately, sometimes this is simply called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It may result from aging, though it may also sometimes be caused by head injury or other factors. It is usually not a huge concern, but people should be careful especially when they stand up or get out of bed in the morning.

Being on a cruise ship can cause dizziness.
Being on a cruise ship can cause dizziness.

Another cause of the condition is panic attacks. Some people suffer true vertigo, and not simply when they’re exposed to things they fear like heights. Part of the reason that the spinning feeling or feeling nauseous can result is because people who have anxiety attacks may hyperventilate. This can result in lower than normal oxygen levels to the brain which may make the world spin, or may make a person feel lightheaded or faint.

People who suffer from dizziness may injur themselves during a fall.
People who suffer from dizziness may injur themselves during a fall.

In most cases where dizzy feelings are not caused by serious conditions, the main concern is making sure people don’t actually fall or hurt themselves during a dizzy spell. This becomes particularly important as people age, when they may be more susceptible to serious injury from falls. People who routinely suffer from dizzy feelings should see their doctors to identify cause, find treatment if necessary, and learn ways to modify behavior so they can protect themselves from accidental injury from a fall.

People with a cold may experience dizziness.
People with a cold may experience dizziness.
Poor nutrition might result in dizziness.
Poor nutrition might result in dizziness.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon174695

Yesterday I got up from lying down and felt very unsteady on my feet and the room was spinning. I also felt like I was walking lopsided. Can anyone explain this please?

anon68186

my mother does daycare and I'm on here for her. she just had a dizzy spell and I'm trying to find out what could have caused it.

i came up with an ear infection in the inner ear or a sinus problem, but there's one problem -- she don't have health insurance or whatever.

anon63438

yes it is it feels like you're tilting.

anon43444

dizziness is no fun.

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