A head rush is when an individual becomes momentarily disoriented upon standing up quickly. In minor cases, symptoms such as slight dizziness, dimming vision, or some tingling in the area of the head and neck may occur. More advanced cases can have more severe symptoms, however, such as fainting or a significant decrease in blood pressure. While it is not unusual for a healthy individual to occasionally experience a head rush after sitting or lying down for an extended period of time, recurring episodes, or occurrences that take place without standing up quickly, may indicate a more serious condition. Technically, the condition is known as orthostatic hypotension.
What Happens Physiologically
During a head rush, a person's blood pressure drops suddenly and the body is not able to correct it quickly enough. Usually, the heart speeds up and blood vessels contract when blood pressure falls; both of these involuntary actions work to increase the pressure. When this process is interrupted, however, the brain can't get enough blood, so the person feels dizzy or light-headed.
Standing Up too Quickly
When a person changes position suddenly, such as from a reclining or sitting position to standing up, the blood in the head is pulled by gravity into the feet and legs. This abrupt change in blood flow can make the person's blood pressure fall briefly before the body has time to counteract it. In most situations, this adjustment takes only a few seconds, but during that time, it is possible to experience a sense of developing a headache, feel slightly dizzy, or even notice that the vision becomes somewhat grainy. Losing consciousness very briefly is also possible.
Another common situation known to bring on this condition is overheating the body. Exercising in hot humid conditions, or even just taking a very hot shower or sitting in a sauna too long, can bring on a head rush in some people. In this case, many report feeling faint when stepping out of the hot shower or bath into a cooler room. The sudden drop in temperature seems to make it worse.
Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
Having a head rush is a common symptom of dehydration, and someone who begins experiencing them frequently should consider whether he or she is drinking enough water. Some conditions, like diabetes, can cause a person to become dehydrated more quickly, and make them more vulnerable to hypotension. Similarly, an electrolyte imbalance may also be a factor, particularly for athletes and others who exercise heavily; an exercise drink may help in this situation.
Medications and other Drugs
Taking some prescription and non-prescription drugs can also cause head rushes. People taking diuretics, blood pressure medication, and some other drugs are more vulnerable to this condition. Smoking marijuana or taking certain other mind-altering drugs will sometimes lead to this type of feeling as well.
Managing a Head Rush
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with head rushes. Many of the symptoms will lose intensity if the individual does not move suddenly from sitting or reclining to a standing position. By taking a little more time to raise the body to a standing position, there is less chance for the blood pressure to drop. Perhaps even more importantly, recognizing the onset of a head rush and immediately sitting down can help prevent a person from falling and possibly injuring himself.
When to See a Medical Professional
If the symptoms seem to become worse or more frequent over time, or if they begin to last for longer periods, this may indicate an underlying medical condition. Experiencing a total loss of consciousness is another sign that it is time to seek help. Low blood pressure can be a sign of a number of different nervous system disorders, like multiple system atrophy or Parkinson's disease, or a heart problem. Low blood pressure may complicate or worsen the condition, so should be investigated so any other causes can be treated early.
Medication can sometimes be used to prevent frequent head rushes when it's not possible to solve any underlying cause immediately. Fludrocortisone and beta blockers have been used with some degree of success, while anti-anxiety drugs, such as various types of benzodiazepines, may also help with the problem. Even some antidepressant medications that impact the process of serotonin reuptake in the brain may prove useful in managing head rushes. A qualified medical professional can assess the situation and determine the most effective mode of treatment.