Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Lightheadedness

3-minute read

Feeling lightheaded is common among older adults. It will usually improve if you drink some water and have a lie down, but don’t ignore it. Lightheadedness increases your risk of falling and sometimes it can be a symptom of something more serious.

What is lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness is different from dizziness. Dizziness is when you feel unbalanced and as if the room is spinning. Lightheadedness is when you feel like you might faint. Your body could feel heavy, you might feel nauseous and unsteady, and you may sweat. Your vision might also be affected.

Lightheadedness is often caused by a lack of blood in the brain. It can happen when you stand up from sitting or from lying down, or if you are dehydrated.

If you often feel lightheaded, while it’s probably nothing that is life-threatening, it can still affect your life. It’s therefore worth seeing your doctor to find out why you feel lightheaded.

What causes lightheadedness?

The main causes of lightheadedness are:

Sometimes people feel lightheaded when they have vertigo, a sense that the room is spinning. This is normally caused by a condition in your inner ear.

Lightheadedness treatment

You will usually feel better if you have a drink of water, eat something sugary and lie down. If they go to hospital, some people will need to take in fluids through an intravenous drip.

If your lightheadedness lasts for a long time and doesn’t go away, your doctor might look at any medicines you’re taking and prescribe diuretics, a low-salt diet, or medicines to treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Lightheadedness self-help

If you feel lightheaded, be careful that you don’t fall over and injure yourself. Sit or lie down until you feel better, and don’t drive a car or operate heavy machinery.

How to prevent lightheadedness

Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day and avoid getting too hot.

Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, salt and smoking since these can increase your chance of getting lightheadedness. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding stress can also help.

When to seek help for lightheadeness

See a doctor if your lightheadeness doesn’t go away after a week or if you are feeling nauseous and unwell. You should also seek help if your lightheadness causes you to injure yourself.

Call an ambulance on triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance if you are very lightheaded and you also:

  • have lost a lot of blood
  • are numb and weak on one side
  • feel pressure in your chest
  • feel sick, cold and sweaty
  • have trouble talking or are confused
  • can't breathe properly
  • are vomiting

Last reviewed: June 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Dizziness - orthostatic hypotension - Better Health Channel

Postural hypotension is the lightheaded feeling you may get if you leap out of bed very quickly.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Hypotension (low blood pressure) information video | myVMC

Hypotension or low blood pressure is less common than hypertension or high blood pressure. It cuases symptoms like dizziness and lightheadedness.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Heat stress and heat-related illness - Better Health Channel

Heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster. Find out how you can treat and prevent heat-related illness.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Oliguria (decreased urine production) information | myVMC

Oliguria or decreased urine production may be caused by dehydration, urinary tract obstruction or kidney inflammation or damage.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dizzy turns - myDr.com.au

Dizziness can be used to describe a wide variety of sensations. Find out the difference between vertigo and faintness, and possible underlying causes.

Read more on myDr website

Vertigo - myDr.com.au

Vertigo is a term used to describe a false sensation of movement or spinning. Attacks of vertigo can last from a couple of minutes to a few hours.

Read more on myDr website

Sunburn - myDr.com.au

Skin of any colour can be damaged by the sun. Sunburn occurs more slowly than other types of burns. Physical sunscreens are usually a better choice for people who have had allergic reactions to chemical sunscreens.

Read more on myDr website

Altitude sickness - myDr.com.au

Most people can ascend to a level of 2000 metres in one day without getting sick. Acute mountain sickness is the mildest form of altitude sickness, but can develop into more dangerous forms of altitude sickness.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo