Dizziness is a common symptom that’s not usually a sign of anything serious, but should be investigated by a doctor if associated with fainting, or headaches . The term “dizziness” means different things to different people – some use it to describe feeling lightheaded or off balance, while others use it to describe a feeling that their surroundings are spinning (also known as ‘vertigo’)  .
The most common causes of dizziness are:
- Labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection that affects your hearing and balance, and can lead to a severe form of dizziness called vertigo.
- Migraine – dizziness may come on before or after the headache, or even without the headache.
- Anxiety – particularly if you tend to hyperventilate (breathe abnormally quickly when resting).
- Low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) – which is usually seen in people with diabetes but can also affect those with PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), or PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
- Postural hypotension – a sudden fall in blood pressure when you suddenly sit or stand up, which goes away after lying down. This is more common in older people.
- Dehydration or heat exhaustion – dehydration could be due to not drinking enough during exercise, or illness that causes vomiting, diarrhoea or fever.
- Vertebrobasilar insufficiency – decreased blood flow in the back of the brain, which may be caused by the blood vessels that lead to the brain from the heart being blocked (known as atherosclerosis).
Less common causes of dizziness include:
- having a severe illness or condition that affects the whole body
- using recreational drugs or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol (either binge drinking or long-term alcohol misuse)
- certain types of prescription medicine – such as antidepressants or blood pressure medication
- having a heart rhythm problem – such as atrial fibrillation (a fast, irregular heartbeat)
- carbon monoxide poisoning
Dizziness is not a hormone-related symptom in itself, but can be triggered by other hormone-related symptoms such as anxiety, migraine, or low blood sugar levels (potentially caused by PCOS [2-4] or PMS ).
Note: Since cyclical, or hormone medication-related, dizziness is triggered by other hormone-related symptoms, rather than being one in its own right, we suggest that you look up the tips and tricks relating to anxiety, migraine, PCOS or PMS– as makes the most sense to your experiences. If you think it may be related to your medication, please consult a doctor.
TOP TIPS! Make sure you drink plenty of water each day- dehydration is a common cause of dizziness…
If you think you might have low blood-sugar levels, it is important to eat small amounts of food more regularly throughout the day, and to include slow-release starchy foods in meals and snacks e.g. wheat, rice, barley, rye and corn.
If you feel dizzy at certain times in your menstrual cycle, also check out the ‘all symptoms‘ page for tips on balancing your hormones, to help tackle the underlying cause.
- NHS information; http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dizziness/pages/introduction.aspx
Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018
- NHS. (2015) Dizziness (lightheadedness). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dizziness/pages/introduction.aspx. [Accessed 17 April 2017].
- Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Dunaif A. Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome revisited: an update on mechanisms and implications. Endocrine Rev. 2012; 33: 981–1030.
- Luque-Ramirez M, Alpanes M, Escobar-Morreale HF. The determinants of insulin sensitivity, ß-cell function and glucose tolerance are different in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome than in women who do not have hyperandrogenism. Fertil Steril. 2010; 94: 2214–2221. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.11.049
- Stepto NK, Cassar S, Joham AE, Hutchison SK, Harrison CL, Goldstein RF, et al. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have intrinsic insulin resistance on euglycaemic-hyperinsulaemic clamp. Hum Reprod 2013; 28: 777–784. doi: 10.1093/humrep/des463
- Zarei, S., Mosalanejad, L., & Ghobadifar, M. A. (2013) Blood glucose levels, insulin concentrations, and insulin resistance in healthy women and women with premenstrual syndrome: a comparative study. Clinical and Experimental Reproductive Medicine, 40(2), 76–82. http://doi.org/10.5653/cerm.2013.40.2.76