Top Reasons Not to Ignore Lightheadedness

By , Primary Care Physician, Virtua Primary Care - Marlton

It’s not unusual to feel lightheaded, woozy, or faint every once in a while, especially as we get older. While episodes of lightheadedness are usually brief, don’t shrug them off.

Lightheadedness can have many causes, a number of which may be an underlying medical condition that should be checked out by a doctor. Even if the cause isn’t serious, the condition puts you at risk for falls.

Reasons You Feel Woozy
While you may say you feel dizzy, dizziness and lightheadedness are not the same. Dizziness is the sensation the room is spinning when you are not, or a sense of unsteadiness.

Lightheadedness, in contrast, is faintness or wooziness, like you are going to black out. It is often accompanied by flushing, sweating, nausea, or blurry vision, and subsides when you lie down.

Knowing which you are experiencing can help your health care provider diagnose your condition.

Lightheadedness may be caused by:

  • Orthostatic hypotension—A sudden dip in blood pressure and blood flow to your head that occurs when you get up too quickly from a seated or lying position. It also may happen when you’re feeling anxious, exercising, after you’ve consumed alcohol or a large meal, or when you strain while going to the bathroom.
  • Vasovagal reaction—A overreaction of the body to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or emotional distress
  • Dehydration—Not having enough fluids due to being overheated, or from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or other illness
  • Side effects from some medicine
  • Allergic reactions
  • Low blood sugar
  • Diabetes or other endocrine disorders
  • Thyroid disease
  • A neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease
  • Anemia or blood loss
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or drug use

Remember, lightheadedness also may be a sign of a heart attack, a stroke, an irregular heart rhythm, or heart failure. If it doesn’t quickly go away, seek emergency treatment. Every minute counts.

Seek Help
Always tell your health care provider about your lightheadedness. If it’s mild and only occasional, you may need to drink more water, switch medications, eat more regularly, or avoid stressful situations.

Moving around some before you stand up, and taking care to get up slowly while holding on to something to steady yourself, also could help.

If episodes are more frequent or you lose consciousness, cardiac testing may be required to pinpoint the cause and determine treatment. By treating the underlying problem, we can keep your blood pressure steady and you sure on your feet.

Start Feeling Your Best
Virtua Health’s primary care practices offer in-office and telehealth appointments to treat your condition and help you stay healthy throughout your life. Call 888-847-8823 for an appointment.

Updated April 29, 2021

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