Dizziness and nausea often appear together. They are typical symptoms of several conditions, including migraine headaches, stomach upsets, and other infections. Very rarely, they can be symptoms of more serious diseases, such as a brain tumor.
Some people worry that these symptoms mean they have cancer or a brain tumor, but these are not typical symptoms of these diseases.
Typically, dizziness and nausea indicate a far less serious problem, such as an inner ear infection.
This article reviews the causes of nausea and dizziness and recommends when to see a doctor.
Many different factors or conditions may cause nausea and dizziness.
Not all headaches cause head pain alone. With some types of headaches, nausea and dizziness might be the most noticeable symptoms.
Migraine headaches are neurological headaches that can cause vision problems, dizziness, unusual sensations, and vomiting, with or without head pain.
Some people also notice dizziness and nausea with other types of headaches, especially if the pain is very intense.
Many people who have a migraine headache also experience chronic pain. Some migraines develop in response to specific triggers, such as stress or caffeine.
Drugs and alcohol
Getting drunk or high can cause dizziness or nausea. As the body works to get rid of toxins, such as alcohol, a person may vomit.
Some prescription medications may also cause dizziness and vomiting, especially when they affect brain functioning.
People who notice these symptoms after starting a new drug should tell a doctor. Some of the most common drugs that may cause dizziness and nausea include:
- antianxiety drugs
- anti-seizure drugs
- blood pressure medication
- antipsychotic drugs
- some antibiotics
Motion sickness can happen when the body perceives unusual motion. This may occur when a person is not moving but is more likely when a person is in a moving vehicle, such as a car, boat, or plane.
Motion sickness can cause nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Some people experience other symptoms, such as yawning, drowsiness, or sweating.
It usually gets better once a person gets out of a moving vehicle.
When a person who is not in a moving vehicle experiences motion sickness, something has usually triggered the sensation, such as watching someone else move, a video game, or a video with movement.
Motion sickness is not dangerous.
A stomach virus or bacterial infection can cause nausea and vomiting. Some people with a stomach infection also feel dizzy or become dizzy because of dehydration.
One of the most common causes of stomach illnesses is norovirus. This highly contagious infection causes vomiting and nausea that can last for a day or longer. Some people also get a fever, headache, or muscle pain.
Bacterial infections, often from food, may also cause stomach illnesses.
While most such infections clear on their own, these illnesses can cause dangerous dehydration in young children, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions.
Numerous other infections, ranging from mild to life-threatening, may cause nausea and dizziness.
In most cases, a person will also get a fever. Some infections that might cause nausea and dizziness include:
- herpes zoster oticus, a rare variant of herpes that infects the ear
- any ear infection, especially of the inner ear
- infections of the eye that affect vision, since this may cause a person to feel dizzy
Any untreated infection can spread to other areas of the body, causing a condition called sepsis. Sepsis may cause dizziness and nausea, but it is a life threatening condition, and people need immediate medical treatment.
Sometimes dehydration can make a person feel dizzy.
Dehydration is relatively common after an episode of vomiting, so people who are dehydrated may already feel nauseated.
Drinking plenty of fluids may ease the dizziness. People who cannot keep anything down should see a doctor.
Anxiety is more than just a psychological sensation. It can also cause physical symptoms.
Some people experience dizziness and nausea as a result of anxiety. People’s symptoms may worsen if the dizziness and nausea cause even more worry and anxiety.
Anxiety is the most likely cause of dizziness and nausea if a person’s symptoms worsen when they feel stressed or overwhelmed or after a panic attack.
It can cause nausea and sometimes dizziness and vomiting.
Morning sickness can be very unpleasant but is not dangerous unless a person cannot keep down food and becomes dehydrated.
People who feel dizzy and who cannot stop vomiting should see a doctor immediately.
Vertigo is not a single diagnosis but rather a group of symptoms that cause dizziness and sometimes nausea or spinning sensations.
One of the most common types of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This happens when tiny crystals in the inner ear move, making it difficult for the brain to assess movement.
A doctor can treat this condition, as well as other types of vertigo.
Brain injuries and tumors
Brain injuries are the most serious potential cause of nausea and dizziness but also the least common.
A stroke happens when a blockage in a blood vessel or a bleeding vessel disrupts blood flow to the brain.
It is more common with people who have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including people over 50, those with high blood pressure, and people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. However, anyone can have a stroke.
Symptoms of a stroke include numbness or tingling on one side of the body, a drooping face, confusion, and muscle weakness on one side of the body. Nausea and dizziness are not typically the only symptoms.
Very rarely, a brain tumor might cause nausea or dizziness. It almost always causes other symptoms, such as headaches, balance issues, vision problems, and personality changes.
Nausea and vomiting with no other symptoms usually go away on their own.
A person should see a doctor if they:
- have symptoms for more than a few days
- are pregnant and become dehydrated or cannot keep food down
- have other symptoms, such as changes in personality or trouble walking
- develop nausea or dizziness after starting a new medication
- have frequent migraine headaches or other headaches that disrupt daily functioning
- experience chronic anxiety
A person should go to the emergency room if they:
- have trouble moving, pain or numbness on one side of the body, or other symptoms of a stroke
- lose consciousness or seem very confused
It is not always possible to prevent nausea and dizziness. Here are some strategies that can reduce the risk:
- washing hands frequently, especially when in close contact with others or after being around someone who is sick
- keeping children home from school when they are sick
- avoiding working or going out in public when sick
- drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- seeking medical care for any unexplained symptoms
Nausea and dizziness can be very unpleasant and could indicate something more serious. It could also trigger anxiety.
When a person is unsure why they have these symptoms or the symptoms get progressively worse, a person should see a doctor who can diagnose the problem.