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The 5 Most Common Causes of Lightheadedness

A female doctor in blue scrubs sits across from a male patient seated on an exam table.

Many patients visit their primary care provider or local urgent care center each year complaining of feeling dizzy or lightheaded. Although common and often not life-threatening, there may be some underlying reasons why you are experiencing this uncomfortable, off-balance medical episode.

Even if you don’t believe your lightheadedness is cause for concern, it is important to speak with a medical professional to ensure it doesn’t lead to more serious medical conditions or even injuries due to a fall.

At PVHC, your health is our top priority. Don’t delay diagnosis for dizziness, as it could be caused by something serious that should be treated right away.

Let’s talk more about this medical symptom.

What Is Lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness is often described as the overwhelming feeling that you may faint or pass out. It is usually accompanied by symptoms like dizziness or vertigo and can seem to appear out of nowhere.

Although most people experience lightheadedness throughout their lifetime without significant issues or repercussions, various health conditions could be the cause of your symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore, especially if what you’re experiencing happens often or for long periods.

Here are the top five causes of lightheadedness to take note of.

Five Causes of Lightheadedness

1.  Dehydration

This medical condition occurs when you don’t take in enough water to replace what you’ve lost through sweat or urination. Dehydration is often seen in those who perform strenuous workouts, intense cardiovascular training, or a job requiring a large amount of physical activity. It is also more prevalent when people spend more time outdoors in the summer months.

Dehydration may lower your blood sugar, making it harder for your nervous system to work correctly, resulting in the feeling of lightheadedness.

You are probably dehydrated if you are thirsty, feel tired, have dark yellow urine, and feel woozy. Most cases of dehydration can be fixed with the steady consumption of water, but some require a trip to urgent care. Pay attention to the severity of your symptoms and don’t delay treatment.

2. Certain medications

Some prescription medications may affect how your body functions, causing you to experience symptoms such as dizziness. Drugs created and administered for heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety and depression can cause a drop in blood pressure. In turn, this can cause you to feel off-balance and lightheaded.

Your chances for these symptoms increase if you are older and taking multiple medications. Speak with your healthcare provider if you notice a new or worsening feeling of lightheadedness when taking your daily medications.

3. Low blood sugar

Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when we have too little sugar in our bloodstream. Sugar helps fuel all bodily functions, so without enough of it, we can experience a drop in blood sugar, especially for those diagnosed with type 1 or 2 diabetes. Along with feeling lightheaded, you may experience blurred vision and weakness.

Try consuming fruit or drinking juice high in sugar and sitting for a little while to curb these symptoms. If your symptoms don’t subside, seek treatment right away.

4. Standing up too quickly

When you stand up too quickly from a lying or seated position, you may feel a sudden head rush and instant lightheadedness.

This is medically termed “orthostatic hypotension” and refers to the instance that blood has not had the chance to reach your brain as quickly as you stood. This feeling should only last a few minutes. If it lasts longer, it may indicate something more serious going on.

5. Heart disease

Weakened cardiovascular muscles or other issues with your heart can cause a slow or delay in the travel of oxygen-rich blood to your brain. This may cause you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. If you experience these symptoms often and have been diagnosed with heart disease or coronary artery issues, you should discuss this new or worsening symptom with your doctor right away.

Other less common causes of lightheadedness include:

  • Allergies
  • Altitude sickness
  • Having a cold or flu
  • Hyperventilation
  • Illegal drug or alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Internal bleeding
  • Stroke

Treatment Options

There are various treatment options for lightheadedness depending on the severity of the condition and whether other health issues are the cause.

For mild to moderate lightheadedness, patients may need to:

  • Increase water intake and electrolyte-based drinks
  • Receive IV fluids, especially for those who are dehydrated
  • Consume something sugary
  • Sit or lay down to relax the body and reduce strain on the brain.

More severe cases of lightheadedness may require:

  • A low-salt diet
  • Water pills
  • Anxiety medication
  • Anti-nausea treatment
  • Balance therapy
  • Antibiotic injections in the inner ear to reduce dizziness

Comprehensive Care Day or Night

If you or a loved one is currently experiencing a bout of lightheadedness, we highly recommend visiting your local urgent care center for further evaluation and necessary treatment. It is essential to pay attention to your symptoms and listen to your body, especially if your symptoms last longer than 15 minutes. Don’t delay treatment; get seen today. We are open every day with no appointment needed.