Lightheadedness is a feeling of faintness or dizziness that comes on quickly. Sometimes, people experience a brief spell of lightheadedness when they stand up too quickly, as the blood drains from the head too fast.
As you likely know, lightheadedness doesn’t always warrant a trip to the doctor. However, in some cases, lightheadedness is a symptom of underlying medical conditions. In this article, we’ll advise when lightheadedness warrants a doctor’s visit.
What causes lightheadedness?
Sometimes lightheadedness is caused by something as simple as standing from a seated position too quickly. In these circumstances, lightheadedness is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain, which may negatively impact blood pressure.
Lightheadedness is closely associated with dizziness, which can cause you to feel unsteady on your feet. Dizziness can be caused by a variety of problems, including the ear, brain, heart, and pre-existing conditions.
Other causes of lightheadedness include:
- Flu or colds1
- Allergic reactions2
- Drinking to drunkenness or hangovers3
- Altitude sickness4
- Hyperventilation (over-breathing)5
There are natural remedies to reduce the likelihood you’ll experience lightheadedness, including:
Drink a lot of water
Dehydration is a cause of dizziness, so make sure you’re getting enough fluids throughout the day.7
Stand up slowly
Try moving from seated to standing at a slower pace, if you frequently feel light-headed after standing up too fast.
Practice steady movements
Jerking yourself around, by bending down too quickly or standing up too fast, can cause lightheadedness. Practice controlled action to reduce lightheadedness.
Wear sunglasses while outdoors
People with light sensitivity are more prone to dizziness as it triggers responses in the eye and brain. If you suffer from light sensitivity, wear sunglasses outdoors and avoid bright indoor lighting.8
How to treat lightheadedness
Most lightheadedness that’s not associated with a serious underlying health issue subsides quickly.
Some treatments for less severe episodes of lightheadedness include9:
- Rehydrating by drinking plenty of caffeine-free drinks
- Receiving fluids via an IV drip
- Eating a sugary snack or taking a cup of sweet tea
- Drink sports drinks or a natural water infusion with cucumber which contains electrolytes
- Placing the feet above the head to redirect blood flow
Severe lightheadedness episodes may be treated in the following ways10:
- Water pills
- Salt reduction diet plans
- Antinausea medication
- Antianxiety medication
- Physical therapy to improve balance
When to see a doctor about lightheadedness
If you regularly experience lightheadedness, visit your GP and see if there are any underlying causes, like low blood pressure, which are contributing to the problem.
Other reasons to visit a GP for lightheadedness, include11:
- Episodic vertigo
- Difficulty hearing
- Persistent ringing in the ear
- Vision changes
- Limb numbness
Seek medical attention for lightheadedness immediately if you’re experiencing12:
- Lightheadedness concurrent to bloodloss after sustaining an injury
- Facial drooping
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Pain in the right arm
- Excess perspiration
If any of these symptoms occur, do not attempt to drive yourself to hospital, but call an ambulance.
Last updated: 2 April 2021