Dizziness refers to feelings of lightheadedness, vertigo, or disequilibrium:

  • Lightheadedness can make someone feel as if he or she is about to faint.
  • Vertigo is the sensation that surroundings are spinning or moving.
  • Disequilibrium can make a person feel unsteady and off balance.

More to Know

The causes of dizziness are wide-ranging. Lightheadedness is often the result of a drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) or not enough blood flow from the heart. Heart problems, stroke, internal bleeding, and shock can all contribute. Lightheadedness also can happen with viruses, low blood sugar, allergies, and dehydration.

Vertigo is usually associated with a vestibular disorder (a dysfunction of the balance organs of the inner ear) or central vestibular disorder (a dysfunction of one or more parts of the central nervous system that help process balance and spatial information). Inflammation, fluid build-up, and infections of the inner ear are common causes of vertigo, along with a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and migraines.

Finally, disequilibrium, or loss of balance, can be caused by inner ear problems; joint, muscle, or sensory disorders; neurological conditions; and even some medicines.

Keep in Mind

Dizziness can sometimes be the sign of a more serious health problem, so it's important to get medical help for repeated dizzy spells. How a doctor treats dizziness will depend upon its cause and specific symptoms.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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