Dizziness and Nausea Causes

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
    • Eating disorders – bulimia, anorexia
    • Dehydration
    • Poisoning
    • Insect, snake bites

Related Articles

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

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