A teenager who gets dizzy when she stands

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

 A question from a teenage visitor: “Sometimes when I stand up, I get dizzy and my vision goes black. It only lasts a few seconds. What’s wrong with me?”

This is very common, especially among teens and pre-teens who are rapidly growing. When you stand up suddenly, for a few moments your blood will lag behind in your legs, and what you’ll notice are the effects of not having enough blood getting to your brain. You’ll feel like you might faint, what some people call “dizzy.”

Many people will also notice changes in their vision when this happens. Way in the back of your brain, above your neck, is the “occipital lobe.” That’s where your brain decodes images from your eyes– it’s your “vision center.” That can be the first area of the brain to be affected when blood flow is insufficient. So in addition to feeling “dizzy” from not enough blood flow, your vision might get dark, or it might seem like you’re looking through curtains or down a tunnel.

After a few seconds, your heart will pump harder and more blood will make it up to your brain. That’s when the symptoms stop. These symptoms are sometimes called “orthostatic intolerance” or “initial orthostatic hypotension.”

If you notice dizziness and vision changes when you stand, a few things can help. Try to get up slower– first sit on the side of the bed for a few seconds, then stand up, rather than getting up all at once. Also, you can try to squeeze your fists together as you stand to increase your blood pressure. Or, believe it or not, clench your butt cheeks together. It works. You can also try to drink more fluids to stay well hydrated to prevent this.

If you’re losing consciousness (fainting), or if the symptoms last more than 30 seconds, or if this is getting worse and worse, you ought to see your doctor about this. But for most people, these symptoms are very brief and don’t cause any serious harm.

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