What is Lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness is the name given to a sensation of feeling woozy, wobbly as if being on a rocking boat, and a sense of imbalance as if you are about to fall down. Lightheadedness is quite common and is not at all dangerous even though the symptoms that it causes may be scary to an extent. Lightheadedness in itself is not a medical condition but is a symptom pointing towards a medical condition. If you have a lightheaded feeling once in a while then it is not a matter of concern but in case if it is more constant then it may point towards a medical condition for which you may need to consult a physician, especially if the feeling of light-headed is accompanied by other symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, fainting spells, hearing loss, or chest pains. There are many medical conditions like ear dysfunction, hypoglycemia, anemia, migraines, motion sickness, and orthostatic hypotension that can make you feel light-headed. Below we have discussed about certain medical conditions that can cause lightheadedness and its treatment.

What is Lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness: What Can Make You Feel Light-headed?

Feeling Light-Headed Due to Inner Ear Problem:

Our ears play an important role in maintaining our sense of balance. Our body is able to balance itself due to sensory inputs from our eyes and the inner ears. In cases of a dysfunctional inner ear, there is a distortion of signals that the brain receives from the eyes and the inner ears which results in the brain attempting to clear this confusion causing a sense of feeling light-headed. The best way to treat lightheadedness caused due to inner ear problems is in the form of Vestibular Therapy. In this therapy, the patient is given certain eye exercises which helps to retrain the brain to process signals from the vestibular system and coordinate them with the signals sent from the eyes thus getting rid of the Lightheadedness symptoms.

Feeling Light-Headed Due to Orthostatic Hypotension:

This is a medical condition in which there is a sudden drop in blood pressure resulting in symptoms of Lightheadedness. It usually occurs when sitting or standing up too quickly. Orthostatic Hypotension is a benign condition and there are quite a number of medications available to treat this condition. Certain home remedies like drinking salt water also is helpful in maintaining the blood pressure at normal levels and getting rid of light-headed feeling caused due to orthostatic hypotension.

Feeling Light-Headed Due to Anxiety Disorder:

Anxiety attacks are also one of the major causes of Lightheadedness. One of the main symptoms of a panic attack is a feeling of Lightheadedness. In such cases, a visit to a psychiatrist or a psychologist is best who will give medications for treatment of Anxiety and panic attacks and thus get rid of the symptoms of Lightheadedness.

Feeling Light-Headed Due to Anemia:

This is also one of the common causes of Lightheadedness. Anemia means that the iron levels in the body is quite low. A routine blood draw can clearly confirm this condition. Apart from feeling light-headed, the patient may also experience other symptoms like fatigue, weakness and paleness of skin. The physician will recommend a diet rich in iron along with iron tablets to treat anemia and help get rid of the Lightheadedness.

Feeling Light-Headed Due to Hypoglycemia:

This is a medical condition in which the blood sugar levels in the body become extremely low. This may result in Lightheadedness. It generally occurs in diabetics who are on insulin to lower the blood sugar levels. A sweet candy or some sugar tablets may be enough to get the sugar levels back to normal and get rid of Lightheadedness.

Lightheadedness Caused Due to Dehydration:

If you have been out in the hot weather and have not had enough fluids then it may lead to what is called as dehydration or excessive loss of fluids from the body due to heat resulting in Lightheadedness. Drinking ample amount of water and other fluids is essential especially when out in the heat to keep the body well hydrated and keep Lightheadedness at bay.

Lightheadedness Caused Due to Motion Sickness:

Some people experience Lightheadedness while they are traveling, either in a car or a train, especially when sitting in the rear of the car. This can be prevented by practicing certain things like avoiding sitting in the rear while traveling, try not to watch a fellow traveler who has motion sickness, try not to eat spicy foods just before and during the travel and avoid putting deodorants or perfumes while traveling. You can also get in touch with your physician requesting some form of medication for motion sickness before you are about to travel to get prevent motion sickness or its resulting light-headed feeling.

Other Medical Conditions or Factors that Can Make You Feel Light-Headed:

Lightheadedness Caused Due to Irregular Heartbeat: Some forms of arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat also tend to cause symptoms of Lightheadedness but if this is the case they you will feel associated symptoms of bradycardia or slow heartbeat and tachycardia or fast heartbeat signifying that the heart is not functioning up to its potential along with chest pain and shortness of breath. You need to seek medical attention emergently if you feel these symptoms apart from the Lightheadedness.

Lightheadedness due to being in High Altitudes: Sometimes when you are in high altitudes or up in the mountains you do not get enough oxygen which may result in Lightheadedness along with headache, nausea. It is tough to determine who are at risk for getting these symptoms at high altitudes as some people may get while some may not. The main reason for this is that there is less oxygen at high altitudes which results in the person to breathe faster resulting in Lightheadedness.

Lightheadedness due to Allergies: if a person is allergic to dust, molds, pollens or certain other airborne allergens, then when the person is exposed to such allergens then the body starts releasing chemical called as histamines which try to fight off these allergens resulting in symptoms like sneezing, coughing, fever, and in some cases lightheadedness. The Lightheadedness due to allergens is caused as a result of Allergies affecting the Eustachian Tube which is responsible for maintaining balance of the body by balancing the pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure. When the Eustachian Tube gets affected this pressure is imbalanced giving a sensation of lightheadedness.

Lightheadedness due to Common Cold: Feeling Lightheaded when having common cold or flu is quite common like the other symptoms of cough and feeling tired. These symptoms are temporary and get better as the cold resolves with rest and medications. It is important to note here that more you take rest and take in adequate amounts of fluid, the less tired and lightheaded you will feel. Now the question is why one feels Lightheaded when having a common cold. The answer to this is as a result of fever, cold and some infections the blood supply to the brain is reduced to some extent resulting in feelings of lightheadedness.

Lightheadedness Caused Due to Binge Drinking: It is well known that alcohol negatively impacts the central nervous system. This is more so when a person is involved in binge drinking on a daily basis. This results in feeling of lightheadedness. This is so because ingestion of alcohol causes the body to lose fluids resulting in Lightheadedness. The best way to get rid of Lightheadedness due to Binge Drinking is by staying off of alcohol for a few days and drink in plenty of fluids to keep the body well hydrated as long as there is alcohol in the body system.

Lightheadedness due to Quitting Smoking: For the few days after quitting smoking, a person may suffer from Lightheadedness. This may be due to nicotine withdrawal. This feeling stays for about 10 weeks before it dissipates on its own without any specific treatment.

Lightheadedness due to Intense Workout: At times, a person can feel lightheaded or dizzy after an intense workout session. This is quite common and is caused if you have not eaten a snack before beginning your workouts. An intense workout session may result in some drop of blood pressure resulting in lightheadedness. In case if a person has a problem with low blood sugar then it may also result in some Lightheadedness after an intense workout session. Another reason for feeling Lightheaded after an intense workout session is the sweat that comes out resulting in the body losing fluids and hence causing Lightheadedness. Hence it is recommended that you take a light snack before you begin your workouts to avoid Lightheadedness after an Intense Workout.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 28, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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