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.

Balance Disorders: Vertigo, Migraines, Motion Sickness and More

Quick GuideBalance Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Vertigo, Migraines, Motion Sickness and More

Balance Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Vertigo, Migraines, Motion Sickness and More

Endocrine diseases

  • Diabetes (discussed previously) if not well controlled is one of the main endocrine diseases that may cause dizziness.
  • Thyroid disease: Abnormalities of the thyroid may also cause dizziness as a symptom.
  • Addison's disease: Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol to meet the needs of the body. Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid produced by the body and is part of the stress response (often termed the "fight or flight" response). If cortisol levels are low, a patient may experience weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure.

Hyperventilation

While the body may use hyperventilation or rapid breathing to help with acid-base balance, it may also occur as a response to an emotionally stressful situation. In hyperventilation syndrome, the rapid breathing eliminates some of the body's carbon dioxide, leading to a tingling sensation in the hands and feet, and around the mouth. Dizziness and lightheadedness are associated symptoms. The symptoms may increase the perceived emotional stress and cause even more hyperventilation. In severe hyperventilation, carbon dioxide levels drop enough to cause carpopedal spasm, in which the hands and feet become claw-like and difficult to move. Symptoms of hyperventilation resolve relatively quickly once the breathing rate returns to normal.

Hyperventilation is not always an emotional response. People with asthma, exacerbations of COPD, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia also may breathe quickly to help maintain oxygen levels in the bloodstream. Hyperventilation is also present whenever the body becomes acidotic; the rapid breathing is one correction method that the body uses to regulate its acid-base balance.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2015

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