Dizziness Nonvertigo

Overview

Definition

Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness or weakness. A person may also feel like they are going to faint. It can happen for a short time or happen often and get in the way of daily activities.

It is not the same as vertigo, which is a feeling that the room is spinning.

Causes

Causes may be:

  • A drop in blood pressure when standing— orthostatic hypotension
  • Problems with the nerves
  • Health problems that affect how the heart pumps blood to the body
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol use disorder or illegal drug use
  • Infection or fever
  • Brain injury
  • Low blood sugar— hypoglycemia
  • Anemia

It may also be caused by certain medicines, such as:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Nitrates
  • Antipsychotics
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Blood Flow to the Brain
Nucleus factsheet image
In some cases, dizziness may be due to decreased blood flow to the brain.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem is higher in people who have any of the health problems that cause or and those who take certain medicines.

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Fast heartbeat

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Dizziness that increases or gets worse
  • Signs of an infection, such as fever or chills
  • Concern that your medicine may be causing dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • A headache that happens with dizziness
  • Other symptoms that happen with dizziness

When Should I Call for Medical Help Right Away?

Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if you have:

  • A head injury
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain
  • High fever

Call for emergency medical services right away if you or a loved one has signs of a stroke:

  • Face drooping—one side may be numb and smile is uneven
  • Arm weakness—one arm will drift down when both are raised
  • Speech problems—slurring or cannot repeat a short sentence

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests may be done to look for a cause.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Other tests may be:

  • Tilt table test to see how a change in position affects heart and blood pressure
  • Hearing and vision tests
  • EKG to test the electrical activity of the heart

Treatments

Treatment

Treatment will focus on the cause. This may ease dizziness.

It may take time for treatment to work. It may not ease all dizziness. A person can avoid injury by sitting down as soon as dizziness is felt.

Prevention

Prevention will depend on the cause. Managing chronic health problems may lower the risk.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Nonvertigo Dizziness)

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org 

VEDA http://www.vestibular.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society http://www.balanceanddizziness.org 

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

References

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). ENThealth—American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/benign-paroxysmal-positional-vertigo-bppv. Accessed January 26, 2021.

Dizziness in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/dizziness-in-adults-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed January 26, 2021.

Muncie HL, Sirmans SM, et al. Dizziness: Approach to Evaluation and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Feb 1;95(3):154-162.

Stroke symptoms. American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms%5FUCM%5F308528%5FSubHomePage.jsp. Accessed January 26, 2021.