Skip header content and main navigation Binghamton University, State University of New York - News
Binghamton University Newsroom
Binghamton University Newsroom

Asked by: Cody Burnett
School:Binghamton West Middle School
Teacher:Jo Ann Summerlee
Hobbies/Interests:Sports and reading
Career Interest:baseball or football player.


Answered by: David Svahn MD
Title:Adjunct Professor, Binghamton University
Department:Decker School of Nursing
About Scientist:Research area:
Hypertension, mood and anxiety distorders and medical education.

BS in Quantitative Biology from MIT and MD from Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons


Date: 03-08-2007

Question: What causes people to get dizzy?

Answer: There can be three causes of dizziness. One occurs if your blood pressure drops so low that the brain doesn't get enough blood to stay alert. This leads to fainting, which is nature's way of making you lie down so that the brain is at the same level as the heart and can get the blood it needs. Blood pressure can drop for lots of reasons like bleeding from an injury, or from a heart attack (when the heart can't pump blood normally) but the most common causes are much less dangerous such as standing still on a hot day, or getting really nervous or even seeing someone else feel faint! (That shows the power of the mind.)

The second cause is when you suffer "vertigo" which is the same as motion sickness and is most often due to an infection of the inner ear where our balance center is located. That's why sometimes when you have a bad ear infection you feel unsteady and it seems the world is spinning around you even when it isn't.

The third cause, common in older people, is simply unsteadiness due to a slowing down of all the signals from our eyes, our legs and our blood pressure regulation that normally, when we're young, keeps us able to run and dive, and turn upside down (on a swing for example, without getting unsteady for even a second.

Ask a Scientist appears Thursdays. Questions are answered by faculty at Binghamton University.  Teachers in the greater Binghamton area who wish to participate in the program are asked to write to Ask A Scientist, c/o Binghamton University, Office of Communications and Marketing, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000 or e-mail Check out the Ask a Scientist Web site at To submit a question, download the submission form(.pdf, 460kb).

Connect with Binghamton:
Twitter icon links to Binghamton University's Twitter page YouTube icon links to Binghamton University's YouTube page Facebook icon links to Binghamton University's Facebook page Instagram

Last Updated: 6/22/10