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Dizziness is used to describe the feeling of lightheadedness when you feel you might faint. It’s also used to describe the false sensation of movement and spinning known as vertigo.
Dizziness is one of the most common reasons people see a doctor. Most of the causes of dizziness are not serious or life threatening. Often dizziness can be successfully managed with treatment. However, there are instances in which dizziness signals a life-threatening condition that warrants immediate medical attention.
Vertigo and lightheadedness may be the two most common experiences in people who have dizziness, but their causes are different. Causes of vertigo are often the result of problems with the inner ear that trigger a feeling of imbalance and unsteadiness. Common conditions that cause this sensation include:
Even though most causes of vertigo are not serious, this symptom can be a sign of more severe health problems including:
Most causes of lightheadedness are also benign and occur when you are unable to get enough oxygen to the brain. Conditions that can cause this include:
More serious health conditions associated with lightheadedness include:
If you experience dizziness, you may not require emergency medical attention. However if this symptom is constant or occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, you should seek emergency medical help. Additional symptoms of concern include:
You should also seek emergency medical attention if you develop dizziness and:
If you have been diagnosed with dizziness there are several steps that you can take at home to reduce your symptoms. These include:
If you have dizziness that recurs or becomes worse over time, you should contact your doctor. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, current medications, and past health history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam. Additional tests may be needed to diagnose what is causing your dizziness. Tests that may be used to diagnose your condition include:
Once your doctor is able to diagnose what is causing your dizziness, he or she will be able to provide an appropriate treatment. To help with your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce nausea or to reduce vertigo. These medications are typically prescribed for people who experience symptoms of dizziness that last several hours or days.
Even though most of the causes of dizziness are not serious or life-threatening, dizziness can have some notable complications. Dizziness may cause you to fall and injure yourself. Dizziness that occurs while you are driving may cause you to have an accident. If you experience dizziness, you should talk to your doctor to treat symptoms and prevent these complications from occurring.
Dizziness is a common health symptom that may not be possible to prevent. If you have a disorder that causes dizziness, you should follow your doctor’s advice to treat the condition. This will help reduce the amount of dizziness that you experience. If you develop dizziness, and it continues to recur, you should seek treatment to reduce symptoms and prevent future episodes.
Written by: Darla Burke
Published on Jul 18, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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