Lightheadedness

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 10, 2015
StartSymptomsLightheadedness

Lightheadedness as a symptom can be extremely dangerous. There are many reasons you could be lightheaded, and most require attention.

Contents

Definition & Facts

Lightheadedness can be defined as when your head feels like it is not getting enough blood, and the rest of the body feels heavy. It can be accompanied by nausea or a loss of balance.

Clouded vision can also be an accompaniment to feeling lightheaded. If the lightheadedness is accompanied by a feeling of the world moving around you, you are experiencing a condition called vertigo, which will be explained in depth later on. Lightheadedness itself is usually never a condition - it's usually a condition of another underlying condition or event.

Causes

There are many different causes that lightheadedness comes from. One of the most common causes of feeling lightheaded is a condition known as vertigo. This is when the individual feels that the room is spinning. Another common cause is standing up too quickly. This causes the blood in the body to stay lower since the veins in the body are now further away from the head.

The blood takes a few more moments to get up to the head, which deprives the head of oxygen, and leaves the person feeling as if their head is weightless. This can also be caused by dehydration - whether it is from simply not drinking enough water or by being sick and loosing fluids by vomiting or other causes.

Playing a wind instrument - such as the flute or clarinet - can also cause you to feel lightheaded due to a lack of oxygen getting up to the brain. Other causes of lightheadedness being a symptom include respiratory issues, shock, over bleeding, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, low blood sugar, allergies, common cold, the flu, diarrhea, or panic attacks.

When to see a doctor

In the case of any of the following symptoms that accompany feeling lightheaded, you should not try to drive yourself to the hospital, but do call 911. These symptoms include:

These are serious symptoms that always require medical attention, and should not be taken lightly under any circumstances. No matter what, if you feel as if you will require urgent medical assistance for your lightheadedness, you would be better safe than sorry by asking for medical help. If you have had an injury or nausea accompanied by feeling lightheaded for more than a week, you should seek a doctor's help.

Other symptoms to watch out for when feeling lightheaded that could require medical attention include a severe headache, a high fever, a head injury, facial weakness or numbness, falling, trouble walking, very stiff neck, ongoing vomiting, loss of consciousness, Epileptic seizures, and leg or arm weakness. If the lightheaded feeling goes away on its own but comes back, it may be worth getting a doctor's opinion.

Treatment & Therapy

There are some times that lightheadedness as a symptom will go away on its own. Should it not go away but you cannot get to the doctor's office that day, there are some tips to keep it at bay or keep it from worsening. One of these tips is to get up slowly. This will keep the blood flowing and prevent it from stalling as you stand up since this is one of the most common causes of dizziness and lightheadedness.

Another treatment is to avoid caffeine and tobacco. Theses substances restrict blood flow and will maybe make the feeling of lightheadedness worse than they were before. This means avoiding some chocolates, sodas, and smoking. If the lightheadedness is not connected to an underlying cause, it often subsides simply with time. Keeping electrolytes replenished in the body is another way to treat feeling lightheaded since it can come from being dehydrated and perspiration not only rids the body of water, but of several electrolytes.

If getting treated by a doctor, avoid the bright lights as they can make it worse. Keep hydrated as long as you can. This means drinking more water, unless you have had too much water to begin with. If that is the case, drinking even more water to relieve the lightheaded feeling can be incredibly dangerous - people have been known to die from drinking too much water. If you cannot get your hands on water, weak tea with sugar, clear broth, and gelatin products are also options for re-hydration.

If you suspect your lightheaded feelings come from vertigo, do not lie flat under any circumstances. Instead, prop yourself up on a pillow or with a couple of pillows to help relieve the spinning sensation.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

The best way to prevent feeling lightheaded is to keep hydrated during exercise. This means drinking enough water and keeping other fluids in the body. If you are prone to feeling lightheaded when feeling sick, this is a good tip for you as well. Another way to help prevent feeling lightheaded is to avoid head injuries.

There is no proven way to avoid head injuries, but one way to do so is to always wear a seat belt in a car, and to make sure the airbags are installed properly so that they will do what they are meant to. Another way to prevent lightheadedness is to avoid substances that can make you feel lightheaded - alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are three such substances that can have that affect on you.

Some medications list feeling lightheaded as a side effect, but only after talking to a doctor should these be discontinued. Move slowly when getting up, especially if you have a headache, flu, or cold. The best way to do this is to sit up slowly and stay sitting for a couple of minutes before standing up. Then you should stand still for a couple of moments, just to make sure.

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