Feeling lightheaded or dizzy can be really scary. It's probably not something that happens to you on a regular basis, which means when it does happen, it can catch you off-guard and makes you feel more than just a little bit unsteady. There are actually some alarming things it could mean if you ever suddenly get lightheaded, however, and it's important to know more about them because, in some cases, the seemingly innocent symptom of being lightheaded can be a super early warning sign of something way more serious. And if it is a sign of something more serious, it's likely important that you recognize what's going on and take action sooner rather than later.
When you experience lightheadedness, you might also notice that you feel a little bit weaker than you normally do, as if you might stumble or even fall over. Sitting down and drinking a class of water can sometimes make you feel more grounded, but if you're not sure why you're feeling lightheaded — it's a total mystery — dismissing your feelings of lightheadedness might not be a good idea, particularly if you're experiencing additional symptoms of serious conditions. Lightheadedness can mean more than just temporary dizziness, and it's important to understand what some of those things might be.
1. It Could Be A Heart Attack
Women and men don't always experience heart attacks in the same way. And for women, one early sign of a heart attack is lightheadedness, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center noted. Heart attack symptoms other than chest pain are actually how women might be more likely to experience a heart attack. So don't wait until you're dealing with chest pain to seek medical attention, particularly if you have other heart attack symptoms.
2. You're Dealing With An Ear Issue
Getting lightheaded can also be a potential indicator that there's something going on in your ears. In an interview with Self, Dr. Catherine Cho, MD, said that vertigo causes you to feel dizzy for longer than just a couple of minutes. Another potential issue could be an ear infection. UK outlet Express noted that if you experience lightheadedness when you lie down, it could be a virus that's causing an ear infection. If you either get lightheaded lying down or feel lightheaded for long periods of time, it might be time to see your doctor.
3. It Could Be Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is dangerous, partially because it can be hard to notice that that's what might be happening when it's happening (which is why carbon monoxide detectors can be super important). As the aforementioned article from Express noted, feeling dizzy or lightheaded can be one of the first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're also dealing with vomiting, shortness of breath, or confusion, you might want to seek medical attention right away.
4. It's Hypotension
Having high blood pressure can cause some issues, but so too can having blood pressure that's too low. WebMD noted that a HealthDay News article reported that Harvard University researchers found that if you have orthostatic hypotension, which is a condition where you get dizzy and lightheaded after standing up for a bit, you might have a higher chance of dying sooner than if you don't have that condition. Chatting with your doctor about what's going on if you're having these experiences can help you get to the bottom of things.
5. You Could Have A Concussion
If you fall or hurt yourself, you might get a concussion and Cho told Self in the aforementioned article that this can cause lightheadedness and dizziness. But if you didn't go to the doctor, you might not have known that you're dealing with a concussion in the first place.
6. It Might Be Low Blood Sugar
You might have also noticed that if you've skipped a meal you sometimes feel weaker than normal, but if your blood sugar drops, you can also feel lightheaded. Dr. Shamai Grossman told Harvard Health Letter that if your blood sugar is low, your body tries to conserve it, which is what can make you feel lightheaded. Eating something or drinking fruit juice might help, but if you've had blood sugar issues before, checking in with your doctor can be a good idea.
7. You're Dehydrated
Dehydration can also cause you to feel lightheaded. Dehydration isn't necessarily something that's immediately serious, but being severely dehydrated can cause you to experience all sorts of symptoms, so it's good to take care of it right away. University of Michigan Health noted that if you're also dealing with vomiting or diarrhea, a fever, or something else that might make dehydration worse, that could be why you're feeling lightheaded.
8. It Could Be A Stroke
As Grossman told Harvard Health Letter in the previously-mentioned article, lightheadedness could also be one of the few signs of a stroke in older adults. If you're experiencing lightheadedness that doesn't seem to be going away or if you're also experiencing other symptoms of serious conditions, going to the doctor or emergency room right away can be a really good idea. Though lightheadedness is often not a huge deal and can be explained, if you're not sure what's going on or it doesn't seem to be ending, you're better off being cautious — and safe.