Is it dizziness or is it vertigo? And what’s the difference?

Many people confuse dizziness for vertigo, and vice versa. Here is some basic information explaining the differences between these two troubling experiences.

What is dizziness?

If you are experiencing lightheadedness, a sensation of losing your balance, or a sense of feeling unsteady, you may be one of the millions of Americans who experience dizziness. Dizziness is a common complaint and affects 20% to 30% of the general population at some point. In fact, dizziness is a common reason that adults seek medical attention.

When your balance is impaired, you may feel unsteady, woozy, or disoriented. You may have blurred vision or experience a sensation of movement. You may not be able to walk without staggering, or you may not even be able to get up. Sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, faintness, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, fear, and anxiety accompany the dizziness and balance problems.

  • Dizziness can be associated with a variety of conditions such as:
  • Foreign objects in the ear canal
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Vascular problems
  • A fistula (hole) in the inner ear
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Medicines or drugs poisonous to the ear or balance system (ototoxic medicines)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Visual disorders
  • Tumors, especially of the vestibular portion of the eighth nerve (known as Acoustic Neuroma)
  • Head injury

What is vertigo?

In contrast to dizziness, vertigo is a type of dizziness where there is a sense of movement or spinning. Changing position, such as sitting up in bed, can make it seem worse. Nausea and vomiting may accompany the vertigo at times.

If you or a loved one is experiencing dizziness or vertigo-like symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away. It could be caused by a simple ear infection that is easily treated, or it could be something more serious. If there is any question, you should call Sandia Hearing Center at 719-634-6260 for a consultation and exam.