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Reviewed 3/9/2023

Dizziness: True or false.

Dizziness is a word that can describe a number of physical symptoms—light-headedness, unsteadiness, and feeling like you're going to faint or that you're spinning. Find out how much you know about the different kinds and causes of dizziness.

True or false: In most cases, dizziness is not a sign of something serious.

True. The causes of dizziness are usually easily treated and may even disappear on their own. Dizziness can be the side effect of a virus, like the flu or an ear infection. Or it can occur after you stand up too quickly from a chair. But there are times when it can signal a bigger problem.

True or false: If you feel like you're spinning or the room is moving around you, you might have a type of dizziness called vertigo.

True. Vertigo can last for a few seconds to several days and can be accompanied by nausea, headache, shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. Vertigo usually occurs when something affects your vestibular system, the part of the inner ear that controls balance. Viral infections, fluid buildup, head injury and even migraines can throw off the vestibular system.

True or false: Light-headedness, or feeling like you're going to faint, is often caused by too much blood rushing to your head.

False. Light-headedness frequently is a result of your brain not getting enough blood. It can occur because you're ill and dehydrated from vomiting and having diarrhea. Or it can be caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure.

True or false: Dizziness sometimes can be treated with medication—or even by tilting your head at a certain angle.

True. Medications like antihistamines, anti-nausea drugs and sedatives may be used to treat dizziness. For a type of vertigo caused by a buildup of calcium deposits in the inner ear, shifting the position of your head may be the only treatment you need. Tilting the head forces the deposits to move to a different part of the ear.

True or false: Dizziness can be a symptom of stroke.

True. You should get help right away if dizziness is accompanied by symptoms of stroke; if you have a history of stroke; or if you have risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking.

Have you experienced episodes of dizziness? If so, call your doctor. A physical exam and some tests likely will find the cause.

Why so dizzy?

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; National Institutes of Health; UpToDate

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.