Common causes of lightheadedness
Health Q & A with Dr. Michael Jacobson, D.O.
Q: Recently I have been experiencing occasional lightheadedness or dizziness, especially when I stand from a sitting position. I am a 63-year-old in generally good health. Can you please give me some insight as to what might be the cause? Should I be concerned? Can you suggest a possible solution? Thank you in advance for your input; I always find your articles helpful.
A: Dehydration, a lack of water in the body, is the most common cause for general lightheadedness. Considering that your body is 60 percent water and your brain is 73 percent water, it’s not surprising that proper hydration is a crucial element for optimal health. Jesus, the Living Water, also reminds us in a metaphor how crucial water is for spiritual health, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).
Dehydration can often be caused by diarrhea or from excess perspiration associated with increased physical activity. Medications (such as diuretics for blood pressure or heart disease) can also cause dehydration. In older folks (usually later in life than 63), it’s quite common for dehydration to occur without any connection to the above-mentioned reasons. Dehydration is often associated with a faster-than-normal heart rate and a lower than-normal blood pressure, so these can be checked as well. Given the common nature of dehydration, I suggest drinking plenty of water and perhaps adding some yogurt or probiotic to your daily diet to see if that helps the symptoms.
Perhaps the second most common cause is an inner ear problem, known as Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV). This condition typically manifests as severe symptoms of room-spinning (vertigo) and can be triggered by changing the position of your neck (thus the name). BPV symptoms are typically managed by medication, such as meclizine, and tends to be self-limited, resolving over the course of several weeks.
If it persists, I recommend that you see a doctor about it to make sure you don’t have another, perhaps more serious cause.
Please note: My office requires a one-week turnaround for medical information. If you have an acute or emergency medical incident, please seek immediate medical attention.
If you have a health question for Dr. Jacobson, CHM Medical Director, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.