Can Dizziness Be a Symptom of High Blood Pressure?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Dizziness can be a symptom of many different conditions. Though it is not considered a symptom of high blood pressure (hypertension), it can indicate low blood pressure on its own or from medications that lower blood pressure.

Read on to learn more about how blood pressure fluctuations can lead to dizziness and when to see a healthcare provider.

Older man who is dizzy sitting on couch

Deagreez / Getty Images

What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness is a term used to describe the feeling of light-headedness or faintness. It can be caused by many different conditions, including:

When to Seek Emergency Medical Care

Whether or not you have high blood pressure, if you are experiencing dizziness with symptoms including weakness on one side of the face or body, speech difficulty, chest pain, or sudden severe shortness of breath, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Is Dizziness a Sign of High Blood Pressure?

Dizziness is not a direct sign of high blood pressure, but it is actually a common symptom of low blood pressure. Dizziness can also happen as a side effect of blood pressure–lowering medication or from certain complications of high blood pressure, like stroke and heart attack.

High blood pressure is common, affecting nearly 1 in 2 Americans. Uncontrolled hypertension is a serious and important risk factor of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. For this reason, it's important to pay attention to your blood pressure and ensure it's in a good range.

High blood pressure is commonly labeled the "silent killer" since it usually does not cause any symptoms. Severely high blood pressure can cause headaches and nosebleeds, but more often, hypertension doesn't cause any symptoms at all.

Even though dizziness is not a direct symptom of high blood pressure, people with high blood pressure can experience dizziness from the following related causes:

  • Medication side effects
  • Orthostatic hypotension (sudden drop in blood pressure when standing after being seated or lying down)
  • Serious complications of high blood pressure, including stroke, heart attack, and arrhythmias

How Is High Blood Pressure Measured?

Blood pressure is measured in milligrams of mercury (mmHg). According to American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines on hypertension, blood pressure readings above 120 mmHg systolic (upper number) are considered elevated, whereas blood pressure readings of 130/80 on more than one occasion are considered high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Medication Side Effects

Blood pressure medications, also known as antihypertensive medications, lower blood pressure. There are many different classes of antihypertensive medications, but dizziness is a potential side effect of all of them.

For example, diuretics (or water pills) like chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) are a class of medication commonly used to treat blood pressure. These medications work by increasing sodium and water excretion from the kidneys. Dehydration and dizziness are possible side effects.

Orthostatic Hypotension

Some people with high blood pressure experience wide fluctuations in their blood pressure. Orthostatic hypotension is low blood pressure and dizziness upon standing. It commonly occurs as a complication of blood pressure treatment in older adults and in people with Parkinson's disease.

Complications of High Blood Pressure That May Cause Dizziness

Some complications of high blood pressure may lead to dizziness. These include:

  • Stroke: Strokes can be caused by bleeding in the brain or a blocked blood vessel from cholesterol plaque buildup or blood clot. The result is brain tissue starved of blood and oxygen. Depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs, dizziness may be a symptom.
  • Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is compromised. Heart attacks may cause dizziness through a drop in blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Arrhythmias: When blood pressure is high, the heart must work harder to pump blood and, over time, the heart muscle thickens and changes in response to pressure. These changes can increase the risk of arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, which commonly causes dizziness, as well as shortness of breath, fatigue, and exercise intolerance.

Treatment and Management of Dizziness

Treating dizziness depends upon the underlying cause.

When dizziness is due to side effects of blood pressure medication, changing medications or the dose or timing of medication may be necessary. For example, your medication dose may be reduced or you may be asked to take blood pressure medication at a different time of day, such as at night instead of in the morning. Any medication side effects and changes should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

When dizziness is a symptom of complications of high blood pressure, like stroke or heart attack, emergency treatment is needed.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Dizziness is an unpleasant symptom that can have many potential causes, so it's important to talk with a healthcare provider to understand what's causing it. Pay attention to the timing of dizziness and anything that worsens your symptoms, and make sure to bring this information to your healthcare provider.

As always, if you have any symptoms that indicate a heart attack or stroke, such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, weakness or numbness on one side of the face or body, or sudden difficulty speaking or walking, get immediate medical attention.

Summary

Dizziness has many possible causes. High blood pressure doesn't directly cause dizziness, but people with high blood pressure may experience dizziness as a side effect of medication designed to lower blood pressure or from complications of high blood pressure. Pay attention to any additional symptoms, and be sure to seek medical attention for any signs of stroke or heart attack.

A Word From Verywell

Dizziness as a side effect of blood pressure medication can be a nuisance and can increase the risk of falls. If you notice dizziness that occurs shortly after taking your medication, after starting a new medication, or changing doses, talk to your healthcare provider. While it can be frustrating, it often takes experimenting with different strategies to manage dizziness from hypertension treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I get rid of dizziness?

    Dizziness has many potential causes. Dehydration is a common cause that can often be treated at home by increasing fluid and salt intake. Other, more specific causes that may require additional treatment include medication side effects, vertigo, anemia, and infections. A healthcare provider can help determine the cause of dizziness and provide a treatment plan.

  • What medications cause dizziness?

    Any blood pressure medication can cause dizziness since it lowers blood pressure. These medications include diuretics, ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers, among others. Other medications, such as those for treating mood disorders, prostate enlargement, seizures, and insomnia, can also cause dizziness.

  • What is orthostatic hypotension?

    Orthostatic hypotension, also known as postural hypotension, is a decrease in blood pressure with standing, often accompanied by symptoms like light-headedness, racing heart rate, and visual changes. It is defined by a 20mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure or a 10 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure when changing positions from lying or sitting to standing. Orthostatic hypotension can make treatment of high blood pressure complicated since blood pressure treatment can worsen dizziness.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about hypertension.

  2. American Heart Association. What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?.

  3. Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Hypertension. 2018;71(6):1269-1324. doi:10.1161/HYP.0000000000000066

  4. Ricci F, De Caterina R, Fedorowski A. Orthostatic hypotension: epidemiology, prognosis, and treatment. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;66(7):848-860. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.06.1084

  5. American Stroke Association. Stroke symptoms.

  6. American Heart Association. Warning signs of a heart attack.

  7. Dzeshka MS, Shantsila A, Shantsila E, Lip GYH. Atrial fibrillation and hypertension. Hypertension. 2017;70(5):854-861. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.117.08934

  8. Biaggioni I. Orthostatic hypotension in the hypertensive patient. Am J Hypertens. 2018;31(12):1255-1259. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpy089

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring orthostatic blood pressure.