Dangerous causes of dizziness

Dizziness is often described as a spinning sensation, feeling faint, lightheaded, unsteady, or experiencing a loss of balance. While there are different reasons for dizziness, many of which are harmless, other causes of dizziness can be dangerous — or even fatal. Here are some of the dangerous causes of dizziness.


Hypotension is defined as a blood pressure of 90/60 or lower. It can be caused by many underlying conditions, including blood loss, dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias, sepsis, endocrine disorders, malnutrition, or a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Certain medications and recreational drugs can cause hypotension as well.

Hypotensive patients often require vital sign monitoring, blood work, and an EKG (a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart) to determine the cause and severity of their hypotension. The treatment of hypotension is determined by the underlying cause.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of hypotension, including dizziness, weakness, blurred vision, nausea, confusion, pale skin, or fainting should seek immediate medical attention.

Myocardial infarction

A myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, is one of the most dangerous causes of dizziness. An MI occurs when blood flow to the cardiac muscle is disrupted, usually by a blood clot in a coronary artery. 

MIs can cause dizziness for several reasons. In some cases, an MI causes an arrhythmia, which disrupts the heart’s ability to contract normally. In other cases, lack of blood flow to the cardiac muscle weakens the heart’s ability to contract, which decreases blood flow to the brain.

Other symptoms of an MI often include chest pain or pressure, sweating, jaw or arm discomfort, nausea, and shortness of breath. Anyone with these symptoms should go to the nearest emergency department or call 911.

Cerebrovascular accident

A cerebrovascular accident (CVA), or stroke, is another dangerous cause of dizziness. The two main types of CVAs are:

  • Hemorrhagic: A blood vessel ruptures and causes brain bleeding
  • Ischemic: A clot in an artery disrupts blood flow to the area of the brain the artery supplies.

Patients having a CVA often experience dizziness, which can be due to a drop in blood pressure, a drop in blood sugar, or a lack of blood flow to the part of the brain that is responsible for balance.

Other symptoms of a CVA include blurry vision, impaired speech, a facial droop, mental confusion, a headache, muscle weakness, or paralysis. Patients with any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention since CVAs can cause irreversible brain damage if they’re not treated promptly.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning wood, charcoal, propane, gasoline, or other fuel sources. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in red blood cells, leading to tissue damage. Prolonged carbon monoxide exposure can cause permanent brain damage or even death. 

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Dull headache
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should get to fresh air immediately and call 911.

Follow these tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and check them at recommended intervals.
  • Open the garage door before starting your car. 
  • Properly vent fuel-burning appliances. 
  • Don’t use a gas stove to heat your home. And keep your fireplace and chimney in good repair.


Vertigo is a condition where the room feels like it is spinning. It is not a condition or underlying dizziness caused on its own. Vertigo can be mild or severe, preventing you from participating in day-to-day activities. Stress can be an underlying trigger of vertigo.


When you have a viral or bacterial infection, you are more likely to get dehydrated and weak. When you try to stand up or participate in daily activities, you may feel dizzy. 

Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease is an illness that affects the inner ear. Symptoms include sudden severe dizziness, hearing loss, feeling of fullness in the ear, and ringing in the ear (tinnitus). 


Another common cause of dizziness can be blood flow problems when there is not enough blood reaching the brain. This can be caused by heart failure, irregular heartbeat, blood clots, or other heart-related medical conditions. 


Certain medications may be a cause of dizziness. These can include some heart or blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antivirals, and psychiatric medications. Speak to your healthcare provider about medication side effects you can expect. 


When you are dehydrated, you may become dizzy and lightheaded. It is important to drink enough fluids during the day to prevent dehydration, particularly if you are ill. 

Low blood sugar

Low blood sugar due to diabetes or medications can cause dizziness. If blood sugar drops too low, this can lead to severe symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and coma. If you have diabetes, especially if you are on insulin, it is essential to check your blood sugar regularly. 

Dizziness FAQs

Here are some common FAQs about dizziness. 

How do you know if dizziness is serious?

Many of us experience occasional dizziness that is not medically serious. If dizziness is accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain, falling, fever, or shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention. 

Can high blood pressure cause dizziness?

Typically, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms, but some people may experience dizziness. Medications used to control blood pressure are a more common cause of dizziness.

How do you know if dizziness is heart-related?

Dizziness caused by heart problems is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest pain, fatigue, or swollen extremities. 

Visit an urgent care for dizziness diagnosis

If you are experiencing daily discomfort due to waking up dizzy or feeling dizzy when you lie down, our knowledgeable providers are here to help determine the underlying cause. 

Since there are many causes of dizziness in women and men, it is best to seek medical attention if you often feel dizzy. Our urgent care centers are open seven days a week with extended hours to help you feel better. Just walk in or save your spot online at any of our conveniently located centers


  1. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/low-blood-pressure
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/about.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482356/
  4. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/menieres-disease
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853661/
  6. https://share.upmc.com/2017/03/dizziness-warning-signs/
  7. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596492/

Medically reviewed by J.D Zipkin, MD, MA, FAAP — By Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant on December 12th, 2023