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What is dizziness?

Dizziness is a term that describes a range of feelings, such as feeling unsteady, woozy, weak or faint. It is something that most people may experience from time to time. It is rarely the sign of a serious problem. There are ways to relieve dizziness.

What are the symptoms of dizziness?

If you are feeling dizzy, or experiencing a ‘dizzy spell’, you will usually feel light-headed, unsteady or unbalanced and you may also feel weak. You might also feel like you’re going to faint.

What causes dizziness?

Dizziness is common in adults, but it is rarely the sign of a serious condition. Dizziness has many possible causes, including:

Some medicines (check the patient information leaflet) and alcohol can also make you feel dizzy.

Causes of feeling faint

Feeling faint is common and happens when the blood flow to the brain is reduced. This can be caused by a number of factors, such as:

  • changes to your blood pressure
  • dehydration
  • anaemia
  • some medicines
  • high levels of pain
  • exposure to sights you find unpleasant, such as the sight of blood
  • high levels of anxiety
  • standing up for long periods of time
  • coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • straining on the toilet
  • heat exposure

Self care

If you are feeling dizzy or light-headed you may find the following advice helpful:

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Change positions slowly, especially when you’re standing up after lying down. Try to sit for a couple of minutes before standing up.
  • Avoid sudden, fast movements of the head, such as looking up or around too quickly.
  • Try to avoid going up or down stairs as you may fall and hurt yourself if you become dizzy whilst on the stairs. If you have to use stairs, hold on to the railing if there is one.
  • Avoid driving or operating dangerous equipment or machinery while you feel dizzy as this could be dangerous to yourself and others.
  • If you feel faint, try lying down flat. This will allow blood to reach your brain quickly.

When should I see my doctor?

See your GP if you are worried by your dizziness, or if your dizziness is sudden, severe, or prolonged or keeps happening.

How is dizziness diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you, and ask you about your symptoms and medications. You may also need a hearing test and balance tests, blood tests to check for infection and other tests to check heart and blood vessel health.

How is dizziness treated?

Dizziness often gets better without treatment. If you need treatment, it will depend on what is causing your dizziness.

Even if a cause can’t be found, there are effective ways to treat dizziness, including medications and balance exercises.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your dizziness, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019

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