Light Headedness

image001For someone experiencing light headedness, it is possible for them to feel as if their head is weightless or that the room is moving like vertigo or that he is about to pass out or faint. This condition can be transient or recurrent but is occasionally chronic. In most cases, light headedness is not serious and will cure itself or can be easily treated although in some cases, depending on the underlying problem or cause, treatment is necessary.

Causes of Light Headedness

1. Low Blood Pressure

Light headedness is very common for people who have low blood pressure as there is not sufficient oxygen-rich blood in the brain which affects its function. Other symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, vomiting and nausea and sweating. Low blood pressure can have many possible causes including anemia, bleeding, dehydration, heart-related illness that is connected to dehydration, side effects of medications, alcohol use or pregnancy.

2. Diabetes

Light headedness is also a common symptom experienced by those with diabetes and is the result of hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia or autonomic dysfunction (which is related to postural hypotension). Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar and happens when there is not enough glucose found in the blood; therefore the brain doesn’t have enough glucose for normal functions and can therefore lead to light headedness. This can occur in diabetics when they do not consume enough or have too much medication. Other symptoms include confusion, sweating and coma. Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar and can happen when there is not sufficient insulin so the cells cannot use the glucose to metabolize energy. Other signs may include changes in the body’s acid-based balanced, anaerobic metabolism and dehydration.

3. Postural or Orthostatic Hypotension

Postural or orthostatic hypotension is when a person experiences normal blood pressure readings while lying down but become light headed when they rise quickly, which frequently occurs in people who are anemic or dehydrated and is a symptom of the lack of fluids. In most cases, the feeling will only last a few seconds but if medications or dehydration stop the body from increasing heart rate and constricting blood vessel, the light headedness can continue and cause fainting. Postural or orthostatic hypotension can also occur because of several healthy conditions including Parkinson’s disease, Addison’s disease, diabetes and Shy-Drager syndrome.

4. Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation is rapid breathing and can be used by the body to help balance acid-base levels but can also happen during stressful situations. When it occurs, the body will lose some of its carbon dioxide and this is what leads to the associated symptoms including tingling sensations in the feet and hands as well as by the mouth and light headedness. In some cases when the hyperventilation is triggered by emotional factors, the symptoms can increase the stress which in turn increases the problem. In more severe cases, the levels of carbon dioxide can drop low enough where carpopedal spasms occurs (feet and hands become claw-like making them hard to move). When breathing returns to normal, the symptoms usually disappear.

5. Endocrine Diseases

Endocrine diseases that can cause light headedness include diabetes, thyroid disease and Addison’s disease. Thyroid disease can include hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when there is extra thyroid hormone and can lead to light headedness, shortness of breath, dizziness and palpitations. Hypothyroidism is when there is not enough thyroid hormone and can lead to a lowered heart rate and blood pressure which in turn leads to light headedness as well as chills, lethargy and weakness. Addison’s disease happens when the body doesn’t produce sufficient cortisol, which is a steroid that is a key part of our stress response. When these levels are low, it can lead to light headedness, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, dizziness, fatigue and weakness.

6. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and is considered a “silent killer” because it will not usually have any symptoms other than elevated blood pressure readings. Sometimes, however, someone with high blood pressure will experience light headedness, nausea or a headache. Whenever someone experiences elevated blood pressure along with symptoms, the problem needs to be addressed quickly to prevent complications.

7. Heart Conditions

The heart is an important electrical pump that requires a properly working electrical conduction system in order to function correctly. The muscle must also be strong in order to pump blood while the valves must function correctly to allow for blood flow. Conduction disturbances are heart conditions that affect the heart rate, causing it to beat too slowly (bradycardia) or too quickly (tachycardia). Both problems can lead to a lack of blood in the brain which can cause light headedness. Cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle doesn’t function correctly which causes it to beat abnormally and can also cause light headedness.

8. Vasovagal Syncope

Vasovagal syncope occurs when the vagus nerve has too much stimulation and as a result the blood vessels will dilate causing the heart to slow. This reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood towards the brain. In addition to light headedness, this is also one of the common causes of fainting.

Cautions

In most cases, light headedness is not a disease in itself; instead it is a symptom so the treatment will focus on treating the underlying cause. An example is that light headedness because of dehydration because of gastroenteritis may be treated with medications and intravenous fluids but if it is because of a heart condition, it may lead to hospitalization and tests.

When to See a Doctor

Light headedness is fairly common and does not usually require a visit to the doctor. If, however, it is accompanied by other symptoms or illnesses, you should visit a doctor immediately. These additional symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dehydration, bleeding, altered thinking or vertigo. In addition, someone with diabetes who experiences light headedness should visit the doctor.

 
 
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