Dizziness and nausea occur with many conditions that affect different organs of the body. These are the most common complaints of people seeking medical help as the problems lead to uneasy feelings and interruption of daily tasks.
While most of the causes are not serious, they can range from mild to life-threatening problems of the nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, or cardiovascular system. Proper diagnosis of the main cause of dizziness, nausea, and vomiting is important to have an effective treatment. A person experiencing dizziness and nausea may also develop other symptoms, such as sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath, faintness, and vomiting.
12 Common Causes of Dizziness and Nausea
Many causes can make you feel dizzy and sick. In some cases, dizziness and nausea are mild and brief symptoms caused by consuming small amounts of harmful bacteria or riding on a roller coaster. In severe cases, these two may indicate a serious health problem that needs medical attention.
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is the sudden sensation of head-spinning, or the inside of the head is rotating. It results in short episodes of mild to strong dizziness.
It is usually triggered by certain changes in the head’s position and may occur when you lie down, sit up, turn over in bed, or when the head is down or up. BPPV can be serious when the chances of a person falling increase. The signs and symptoms of this vertigo include:
- Dizziness and nausea
- Loss of balance
- A sense that you are spinning
Visit your doctor if you experience vertigo regularly. If you also experience hearing loss, trouble speaking, loss of vision or double vision, severe headache, numbness, and fever, these can be signs or symptoms of more serious health conditions.
2. Motion Sickness
Motion sickness, also known as seasickness, carsickness, and airsickness, is the stomach’s feeling caused by a rocking boat, movement of a car, or airplane ride. The symptoms also include:
- Nausea, dizziness
- Vomiting, headache
Motion sickness occurs when one part of the balance-sensing system (eyes, sensory nerves, and inner ear) senses that the body moves, but other parts do not.
For example, if you are inside the cabin of a ship, the inner ear can sense the motion of the waves, but the eyes do not see the movements. The conflict between the senses leads to motion sickness. Other examples are amusement park rides, boats, cars, and trains. You can also have motion sickness from video games.
Motion sickness can be treated with medicines to reduce nausea, such as prochlorperazine and ondansetron. Antihistamines, such as meclizine and dimenhydrinate can also help. To help you feel better, eat dry crackers, lie down, and keep your head still.
3. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, is one of the possible causes of dizziness and nausea. It also results in weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath, sweating, and chest pains.
The most common causes of blood pressure include pregnancy, over-the-counter medications, low blood sugar, liver disease, heart arrhythmias, dilation of the blood vessels, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and heart failure.
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your low blood pressure.
4. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure is a condition in which the blood pressure against the artery walls is great enough and may lead to health problems, such as heart disease.
Some people do not show signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, but it can also be linked with dizziness, nausea, chest pain, neck pain, and headaches. A person can have hypertension for years without showing any symptoms, but the damages to the blood vessels and heart continue.
Excessive pressure on the artery walls caused by hypertension can damage the body’s blood vessels and other organs. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney problems
- Damaged blood vessels in the eyes
- Trouble with understanding
- Metabolic syndrome
5. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
The transient ischemic attack has similar symptoms to a stroke but usually lasts for only a few minutes and does not cause permanent damage. TIA, also called a ministroke, can be a sign or a warning.
About one out of three people who experience transient ischemic attacks later have a stroke. It is important to change your lifestyle and eating habits to prevent a stroke from occurring.
Some signs and symptoms of transient ischemic attacks that may last for a few minutes include:
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Numbness of arm, leg, or face
- Difficulty understanding
- Difficulty speaking
- Double vision or blindness
If you suspect that you or a person who knows is having a transient ischemic attack, seek medical attention right away for proper evaluation and treatment.
Many causes lead to a high level of glucose in the blood or diabetes. Too much glucose can lead to severe health problems.
Potential diabetes conditions can be reversed, such as prediabetes, when the blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not too high to be classified as diabetes, and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are the two chronic conditions of diabetes. Signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
- Extreme hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination and presence of ketones in the urine
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and irritability
- Blurred vision
- Gum, skin, or vaginal infection
- Slow-healing wounds
See a doctor immediately if you or your child have symptoms of diabetes. The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the sooner you can start the treatment.
7. Early Pregnancy
Not all women have the same early pregnancy symptoms, but most experience dizziness and nausea, also known as morning sickness, due to pregnancy hormones. Nausea may occur at any time of the day but usually occurs in the morning. It can be accompanied by fatigue, moodiness, and cravings.
Unless the symptoms are severe, there is no treatment needed. A pregnancy test will confirm if a woman is pregnant.
8. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by consuming contaminated food, infected by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The symptoms can start within hours of consuming the food. Symptoms often include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
While some cases are mild and can be resolved without treatment, some cases need medical attention. The symptoms of food poisoning may vary according to the source of contamination. One or more signs and symptoms may develop, including:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Watery diarrhea
Go to a doctor immediately if you are also experiencing bloody stools, bloody vomit, extreme pain, an oral temperature higher than 38.6 C or 101.5 F, diarrhea for more than 3 days, excessive thirst, almost no urination, dizziness, blurry vision, tingling in the arms and muscle weakness.
Hyperventilation is breathing faster and deeper than normal. This leads to a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. One may experience dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath.
The common causes of hyperventilation include stress, intense exercise, fever, certain medicines, and anxiety. It may also occur due to asthma, emphysema, or after an injury in the head. This commonly occurs in people who breathe shallowly, tense or nervous, and those with medical ailments.
Other signs and symptoms of hyperventilation include:
- Feeling nervous, tense, or anxious
- Numbness or tingling sensation in hands or feet
- Sore chest muscles
- A feeling of not getting enough air
- Fainting, vertigo, dizziness
- Loss of balance
- Racing heartbeat
The treatment for hyperventilation depends on the underlying cause. For mild hyperventilation symptoms, home treatment can alleviate the symptoms. For moderate to severe symptoms of hyperventilation, medical treatment is needed, especially if the symptoms interfere with your tasks. The treatment may include medicine, measure to reduce, and breathing lessons.
Tumors that develop near the brain or ear can cause dizziness. The signs and symptoms of a tumor depend on the location of the tumor. Other symptoms include hearing problems, loss of coordination, and tinnitus. Treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, which may require surgery to remove it.
Gastroenteritis is characterized by the inflammation or irritation of the intestines and stomach, which causes diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This condition is caused by a virus. Persistent nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can lead to dizziness and dehydration. Children can get dehydrated fast, so it is important to look for signs and symptoms, such as dry skin, dry mouth, and very thirst. Other symptoms may include:
- Stomach pain, cramping
- Dry skin, dry mouth
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned, see a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
12. Drinking too much
Excessive drinking is a common cause of dizziness and nausea. Alcohol can stimulate the nerves in the stomach, causing nausea and vomiting. In addition, drinking too much can cause sleepiness, slurred speech and slowed reflexes, etc.
To avoid problems caused by excessive drinking, you’d better control the amount of alcohol you drink. If the following symptoms occur after drinking, please seek medical help immediately. These symptoms include slow breathing, tremors, confusion, violent heartbeats, and seizures.
Dizziness and nausea are symptoms that usually come together. Most of the causes of these symptoms are not serious. However, some conditions need medical attention. If you feel lightheaded accompanied by other severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain, go to your doctor immediately. It is always best to seek medical help for proper diagnosis and early treatment.