Dizziness (Dizzy)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Diabetes

Dizziness is a common complaint in persons with diabetes, and may be caused by low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), or autonomic dysfunction (see previous section).

  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (hypo=low +glyc=sugar =emia=blood) describes an inadequate amount of glucose concentration in the blood. A person with diabetes can develop hypoglycemia from a decrease of food intake, or from taking too much medication (insulin or oral tablets), which results in low blood sugar levels. In this situation the person experiences dizziness or lightheadedness because the brain lacks glucose to function properly. Individuals with diabetes and their families need to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia, including dizziness, sweating, confusion, and potentially, coma. Immediate treatment is necessary. Sugar-containing foods given by mouth if the person is awake, or a glucagon injection may be life-saving for the patient.
  • Hyperglycemia (hyper=high +glyc=sugar +emia=blood) also may cause dizziness due to dehydration. High blood sugar levels occur because there is not enough insulin available to allow cells to use glucose for energy metabolism. (Interestingly, brain cells do not need insulin to use glucose.) High blood sugars cause a variety of metabolic responses in the body leading to dehydration, anaerobic metabolism, and changes in the acid-base balance. This may result in a life-threatening condition including diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic diabetic acidosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2015

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