Why Am I Feeling Lightheaded? Here Are Some Reasons….

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Have you ever woken up one morning and found that you are feeling lightheaded? Then you may have one of the problems I have discussed below.

Feeling lightheaded is a common reason why people see their physician. I reckon I see about 4 to 5 patients a day with this problem.

There are many reasons why you might feel lightheaded. Here, I have highlighted some of the common reasons. But first….

The Difference Between Feeling Lightheaded and Feeling Dizzy

While these 2 might sound the same, dizziness is a different problem to lightheadedness.

Dizziness is vertigo – a condition where the entire surrounding starts to spiral around you. People who have vertigo often experience nausea and vomiting.

Dizziness can lead to loss and balance and falls as well. This is rarely seen if you are lightheaded.

The causes for dizziness can be different to causes for lightheadedness. Inner ear infections, strokes, Meniere’s disease and similar ear conditions cause dizziness.

Finally, dizziness tends to be more problematic to the individual compared to lightheadedness. However, this does not mean that you should ignore feeling lightheaded.

Why Am I Feeling Lightheaded?

So what causes lightheadedness? Below is a table that lists the common causes that make you feel lightheaded.

REASONS YOU ARE FEELING LIGHTHEADED

1. Dehydration

2. Medication that lower blood pressure

3. Heart attacks and stroke

4. Autonomic dysfunction

5. Low hemoglobin

6. Panic attacks

7. Irregular heart rhythms

Lets take a look at each of these briefly.

1. Dehydration

India is a scorching hot country at times. It is therefore not surprising that dehydration and heat stroke affect many folks across our land.

Elderly individuals and children are more prone to this.

The sweltering heat can lead to loss of fluids and salts through sweat and breathing through the mouth. The loss of fluids leads to reduction in the volume of blood in the body.

why am I feeling lightheaded

As dehydration gets worse, the brain does not get enough blood. This can make you feel lightheaded.

If dehydration is making you feel woozy, then grab a glass of water or two and gulp it down. You can even have a glass of fruit juice or tender coconut water.

As long as you get some liquid in you… and fast.

If you have been profusely sweating, using an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) might be a better option. It wil help you replenish lost salts and restore energy levels.

As and when you are better hydrated, you will find that your lightheadedness vanishes.

2. Low Blood Pressure Due To Medicines

Are you on medications for high blood pressure? Then there is chance you are feeling woozy due to a low blood pressure.

Blood pressure medicines are meant to control your blood pressure and keep it from getting abnormally high. But it can sometimes come at a cost to a few.

medicine causing light headedness

A handful of patients who are on blood pressure medicine may experience significant drops in their blood pressure. This may be particularly problematic when they change posture (for example – standing up suddenly).

Tablets such as diuretics and medicines used to treat prostate problems are notorious in causing low blood pressure.

If you are taking medicines for your blood pressure, make sure you visit your doctor from time to time to ensure your blood pressure is under control.

3. Autonomic Dysfunction

A fancy term, right?

Well, put simply, the autonomic nervous system is a set of nerves in the body that help control blood pressure levels. If it does not function normally, it is called autonomic dysfunction.

So what happens when this specialized nervous system does not work properly?

Well, the blood pressure control mechanisms become faulty.

Let me explain.

If you have been sitting down for a while, standing up suddenly will make all the blood in the body rush towards your feet. In other words, the blood moves away from the brain in the opposite direction.

This should mean that the brain does not get any blood, and you will start to feel lightheaded, correct?

While this is true in theory, the human body is pretty amazing.dizzy feeling

When you change posture, the autonomic nervous system is activated. This contracts all the blood vessels in the legs and elsewhere, pushing the blood up to the brain in a matter of milliseconds. This way, your brain is never devoid of blood. This also maintains your blood pressure.

This prevents you from collapsing every time you stand up. Wow, right!!?

If you are taking certain medications or suffer from certain medical conditions, then this control can be lost. This will lead to a drop in your blood pressure and a consequent feeling of lightheadedness.

Older individuals are very prone to this problem. Treatment usually involves having a slightly high salt diet (consult your doctor first about this), wearing tight calf compression stockings and certain medications. Culprit medicines may need to be stopped.

4. Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar levels can sometimes cause lightheadedness.

If you are a busy person who does not pay too much attention to their eating times and habits, then it is likely that you will experience lightheadedness at some point in your life. This is because your blood sugar is low.

can low sugar cause dizziness

But why does this cause a woozy feeling? Well, sugar i.e. glucose is the energy provider of the brain and other vital organs. If your sugar levels are low, then your brain can begin to shut down.

Feeling lightheaded is a warning sign in such circumstances.

If you have diabetes and are taking too many medicines, then your blood sugar could drop. Even this could lead to you experiencing a light headed feeling.

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Take your meals on time. Eat a healthy balanced diet. If you have diabetes and are experiencing low blood sugar levels, then make sure you see your doctor about your medicines.

5. Low Hemoglobin

If you suffer from anemia, then you may feel lightheaded.

Anemia is a condition where your hemoglobin is low in your body. If your hemoglobin is low, then your vital organs will be receiving lesser oxygen and nutrients.

One of these vital organs if your brain. The brain is constantly working, and requires a constant supply of nourishment.

lightheadedness

If you have anemia, it does not get what it needs. This can make you feel lightheaded.

But that’s not all. If you have a low hemoglobin, you can also develop breathing difficulty and sometimes even chest pain.

There are many reasons why your hemoglobin might be low. Each of these have to be appropriately treated to correct the values.

Eating the right diet that is rich in iron and vitamins is important. If you are anemic, then see your doctor about getting it investigated.

6. Abnormal Heart Rhythms

Your heart beats at a rate between 60 to 100 beats per minute in a regular fashion. It is this regularity that makes it an efficient pump, supplying the right amount of blood to all the organs and tissues in the body.

However, if the heart rate becomes irregular and you develop an abnormal rhythm, then you may start to feel light headed.

heart attack dizzy

This is because an abnormal rhythm can lead to a change in your blood pressure readings. It usually reduces, which means your brain gets less blood.

If you develop an irregular heart rhythm, you may notice your heart thumping in the chest (called palpitations). Not everyone feels this though.

Your doctor will be able to detect any irregularities in the way your heart beats by feeling your pulse and taking an ECG.

Medications are readily available on prescription that can control irregular and abnormal heart rhythms.

7. Hyperventilation and Panic Attacks

Some of us are a little more high strung than others. Small things can make us panic.

A panic reaction is often accompanied by rapid breathing. We can begin to hyperventilate, and this can make us lightheaded.

When you breath fast, you not only breath in extra oxygen; you also breath out a lot of carbon-dioxide. The ‘wash out’ of carbon dioxide that occurs from the chest makes the brain behave funny (the brain also needs some carbon dioxide to survive).

This leads to lightheadedness.

If you panic or hyperventilate, start to breath into a paper bag. This can help you re-breathe the carbon dioxide, and this will correct your lightheadedness quickly.

If you suffer from frequent panic attacks and hyperventilation, you may need to see a psychologist regarding triggers and counselling.

8. Stroke And Heart Attacks

A stroke is a condition where the blood supply to a part of the brain is totally cut off. This can lead to weakness of a part of the body, or difficulty speaking.

Similarly, a heart attack is a condition where the blood supply to the heart is reduced due to narrowing in the heart arteries.

Lightheadedness can be a feature of a stroke and heart attacks, though this tends to be rare. If no other cause of your lightheadedness can be found, then you may require a brain scan or cardiac investigations to look into it further.

Closing Remarks

Feeling lightheaded could be an indicator of something wrong. Do not ignore it. Make sure you seek medical attention to get it corrected.

Dr Vivek Baliga B

Dr Vivek Baliga B

Consultant Internal Medicine at Baliga Diagnostics Pvt Ltd
Dr Baliga is a consultant in Internal Medicine with an interest in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He received his training in the United Kingdom where he completed his post graduate training and his doctorate. He then completed his MBA from University of Phoenix, USA. He has completed the post graduate program in Cardiology from Johns Hopkins University and participated in the Advanced Certificate Course in Diabetes from the Cleveland Clinic, USA. He is the managing partner of Baliga Diagnostics, Bangalore. He is also the founder of HeartSense and is a keen advocate of patient empowerment, having written almost every article on this website and more. In his spare time, he enjoys running and spending time with his son. Find Dr Vivek Baliga on LinkedIn here - http://heartsense.in/linkedin.
Dr Vivek Baliga B

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