Dizziness is feeling faint, light-headed, or unsteady. People say they "feel dizzy" to describe a variety of different sensations. If you feel like you or the room you are in are spinning, you are experiencing vertigo. Feeling imbalanced or as if you are leaning to one side is known as disequilibrium.
You may experience other symptoms when you feel dizzy, such as sweating. Dizziness and sweating are often caused by an illness or condition that resolves on its own or is easily treated. But sometimes dizziness with sweating can be a sign of a serious medical condition. This article explores the potential causes of dizziness and sweating, and when to seek medical attention.
Causes of Dizziness and Sweating
There are many different reasons for being dizzy and sweating at the same time.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs when glucose levels in the blood drop below healthy ranges. It is common in people with diabetes and is often a side effect of certain medications (e.g., insulin). Hypoglycemia can also occur if you have not eaten enough throughout the day.
Hypoglycemia often comes on suddenly. In addition to dizziness and sweating, symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Blurry vision
- Rapid heart rate
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is significantly reduced or blocked. The primary symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. Dizziness and breaking out into a cold sweat can also occur. Other heart attack symptoms include:
- Discomfort in the back, jaw, neck, or upper abdomen
- Feeling unusually tired (more common in women)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
When to Call 911
If you have symptoms of a heart attack, call 911. Seeking immediate medical care may prevent further heart damage.
Hot flashes are sudden, intense bursts of heat felt on the upper body, including the face, neck, and chest. When estrogen levels decline during menopause (when menstrual cycles have stopped for 12 consecutive months), the hypothalamus (area of the brain that controls body temperature) becomes more sensitive to changes in temperature that can result in hot flashes.
Hot flashes last anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes, and are associated with the following symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
Anxiety can often lead to dizziness and sweating, particularly when anxiety levels are high. Many people with anxiety and panic disorders report feeling dizzy and sweaty in the moments leading up to or during a panic attack. A panic attack is an intense fear or discomfort that may last several minutes and can cause physical symptoms, including:
- Accelerated heart rate
- Chest pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Shortness of breath
When you experience high levels of anxiety, a surge of stress hormones (e.g., adrenaline, cortisol) flood the body. This can affect the vestibular system (sensory system in the inner ear) and cause dizziness. Studies show that people with anxiety disorders have an increased risk of developing benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
Fainting (Due to Low Blood Pressure)
Fainting (syncope) is when you lose consciousness for a brief period of time. It occurs when your blood pressure drops suddenly, causing a decrease in blood flow to the brain due to an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain. You may feel dizzy and light-headed or break out into a sweat moments before fainting.
In most cases, fainting is not caused by a serious medical condition. Before you faint, you may feel other symptoms, such as:
- Anxiety and/or restlessness
- Cold, clammy skin
- Loss of muscle control
- Pale skin
- Temporary unconsciousness
- Vision changes
Motion sickness is feeling unwell when traveling by car, boat, bus, plane, or train. It occurs when your brain gets conflicting signals from your eyes and inner ears about your body’s motion. Symptoms of motion sickness include:
- Cold sweats
Motion sickness is temporary and usually goes away when the motion stops.
Other causes of dizziness and sweating include:
- Heat exhaustion or heatstroke: Both of these conditions occur from exposure to high temperatures and lack of hydration. Other symptoms include clammy skin, an abnormally high pulse, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, and fainting.
- Medication side effects: Many different medications, as well as medication interactions (drugs that are potentially harmful and unsafe when taken together), can cause dizziness and nausea. Always check with your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms after starting a medication.
- Dumping syndrome: Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea can occur when your body rapidly moves food from your stomach to your duodenum (the first part of your small intestine). This condition is called dumping syndrome. It most commonly occurs in people who have had part of their gastrointestinal system surgically removed.
- Alcohol withdrawal: Withdrawal occurs when someone who has consumed alcohol on a regular basis for a long period of time stops consuming it. Withdrawal symptoms include dizziness and sweating, as well as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, nightmares, and even tremors, hallucinations, and seizures.
Your healthcare provider can help you determine the cause of your dizziness and sweating. During your appointment, they will take your medical history, ask about your symptoms (e.g., when they began, how long they last), and perform a physical exam.
To provide an accurate diagnosis, your healthcare provider may perform additional tests, such as:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This is a simple test that measures your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity to detect heart conditions.
- Electronystagmography (ENG): An ENG can be used to conduct a number of tests that measure the electrical activity of the eyes to detect vestibular system disorders.
- Syncope test: A tilt-table test is often used to evaluate the cause of unexplained syncope (fainting, loss of consciousness). You will lie flat on a table that changes your position from lying to standing. During the test, you are connected to blood pressure monitors and an ECG to measure your body’s response to the changes in position.
- Blood tests: Blood draws can help detect any issues with your blood sugar levels, heart health, and hormone levels.
- Imaging tests: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, and X-rays provide your healthcare provider with detailed pictures of your body’s internal tissues and structures to help detect potential problems.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you have unexplained dizziness and sweating or experience prolonged or recurring episodes, it is important to see your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Seek medical care right away if you experience dizziness and sweating with any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Headache—particularly if it is sudden and severe
- Irregular pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of hearing or vision
- Numbness in the body (e.g., face, arms, legs)
- Recurrent vomiting
- Weakness in arms or legs
Dizziness is a feeling of being lightheaded, faint, or disoriented. There are times when sweating may occur along with dizziness, such as when you have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hot flashes, or motion sickness. Other times, dizziness and sweating together may be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition that requires medical attention, such as hypoglycemia or a heart attack.
A Word From Verywell
Experiencing dizziness and sweating at the same time can be an unsettling experience, particularly if you aren’t sure of the reason. There are a number of conditions that can cause these symptoms to occur together. Some are temporary and will pass on their own, and others require medical attention.
See your healthcare provider if you have recurring episodes of dizziness and sweating, or if these symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life. Seek emergency medical attention if dizziness and sweating are accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain, severe headache, or vision/hearing loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why am I dizzy and sweaty after eating?
Postprandial hypotension (low blood pressure) causes dizziness and sweating after eating. After you eat, your heart rate goes up and blood vessels constrict to increase blood flow to the stomach and intestines.
In people with postprandial hypotension, blood flows normally to the intestine, but the heart rate does not increase enough and blood vessels do not constrict adequately, causing a drop in blood pressure.
Can dehydration cause dizziness and sweating?
In addition to dry mouth, dehydration can cause confusion, light-headedness, and dizziness. As dehydration worsens, you may sweat less.
Can stress cause dizziness and sweating?
High levels of stress can set off the body’s stress response, which releases hormones such as cortisol that can affect the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, causing blood vessels to narrow, an increase in heart rate, and rapid breathing. These symptoms can lead to dizziness and sweating.
Why do I get dizzy while lying down?
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common cause of dizziness when lying down. BPPV occurs when tiny crystals in the gravity-sensing area of the inner ear move to motion-sensing parts of the ear. This can result in brief but intense dizzy spells (vertigo) that make you feel like the room is spinning when you change your head's position.