Dizziness and nausea are two common complaints that may occur simultaneously and often without any other clinical features to highlight a possible cause.  Even with the presentation of vomiting and headaches, it is difficult to isolate a possible cause without considering a person’s medical history, events that preceded the onset of these symptoms and a thorough clinical evaluation.

Nausea and/or dizziness must be taken seriously in these situations or with the following signs and symptoms :

  • Chest pain – heart attack
  • Numbness, tingling or paralysis – stroke
  • History of recent head trauma or concussion
  • Headaches with other signs and symptoms of raised intracranial pressure

Causes of Nausea and Dizziness

The most common causes of dizziness and nausea includes :


Nausea and dizziness are commonly reported by the elderly although it may not be associated with any underlying disease.

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
    • Prolonged fasting, strict dieting or starvation
    • Poorly managed diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes)
    • Use of diabetic medication, insulin or certain weight loss supplements
  • Intoxication
    • Use of alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs (like sedatives) or narcotics.
    • Slurred speech, poor coordination, dilated pupils, confusion and stupor may be noticed.
  • Medication
    • Nausea is a common side effect of most medication and often resolves with time or if discontinued. Often associated with gastritis.
    • Dizziness may be noticed with medication for hypertension (high blood pressure), arrhythmias, psychiatric disorders.
  • Hormones
    • Nausea and dizziness due to pregnancy and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is related to change in hormone levels.
    • Similar effects may be noticed with certain drugs like the “morning after” pill (emergency contraceptive).
  • Migraines and Headaches
    • Nausea and dizziness is commonly present with a migraine.
    • Nausea and dizziness is a prominent feature of certain types of headaches, especially those associated with raised intracranial pressure and T4 syndrome.
    • Severe head pain, like with any pain, may trigger dizziness and nausea (vasovagal).
  • Inner Ear
    • Meniere’s disease and labyrinthitis are two inner ear disorders where dizziness is common and nausea may be reported in some cases. Ringing sound in the ears (tinnitus) and/or diminished hearing, hearing loss may also be present.
    • Motion sickness is a common cause of dizziness and nausea but is clearly triggered by motion and therefore easily identified.
  • Infections
    • Dizziness and nausea is commonly seen in many generalized viral infections.
    • Septicemia in complicated bacterial infections is a more serious cause.
    • Fever is usually present, however in the incubation period, nausea and dizziness may be noticed along with a general sense of feeling unwell although there is no fever.
  • Psychogenic
    • Nausea and dizziness are commonly reported in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and certain psychiatric disorders.
  • Vasovagal Response
    • Triggered by shock, fear, even unpleasant or disturbing thoughts or images, and severe pain (like kidney stone pain, heart attack pain)
    • Causes a drop in blood pressure, slow heart rate and syncope (fainting).
  • Chronic Diseases
    • Nausea and dizziness are just two of the symptoms that may be seen in many chronic diseases, especially if the disease is advancing.
    • This includes cancer, AIDS and organ failure (kidney, liver).
  • Other Causes

Related Articles

  1. Nausea after Eating
  2. Headaches and Dizziness
  3. Headaches, Nausea and Vomiting
  4. Dizziness in Pregnancy

Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on October 28, 2010