Dizziness or Vertigo? Differentiating Between the Two and Seeking Help

Dizziness and vertigo are two common conditions that can be debilitating and distressing if not diagnosed and treated correctly. While people often use them interchangeably, it is important to differentiate between the two as they possess distinct causes and require separate treatments.

Knowing the difference can help you seek the appropriate medical attention and get the proper care.

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is a feeling of lightheadedness, unsteadiness, or disorientation.

Vertigo, a type of dizziness, can also result from various factors, including dehydration, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions, and medications.

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is a type of dizziness that gives you a sensation of spinning or the feeling that your surroundings are moving even though they are not. The most common cause of vertigo is when the inner ear crystals, tiny crystals that help keep our balance, are dislodged and float in the fluid of the inner ear. This can make you feel the spinning sensation. Other causes of vertigo include inflammation in the inner ear, such as in vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis, head injury,

Meniere’s disease, and conditions affecting the brain like an infection, stroke, and traumatic brain injury.

Differentiating between dizziness and vertigo

Dizziness can be characterized by a feeling of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness. It can also cause a sense of disorientation or feeling like you’re about to pass out. Vertigo, on the other hand, is characterized by a sensation of spinning or the feeling that your surroundings are moving. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

When to seek medical attention?

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience dizziness or vertigo that persists or is severe. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or numbness in your arms or legs
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Changes in vision or hearing

Psychological impact of dizziness and vertigo

Dizziness and vertigo can also have a significant psychological impact on a person’s well-being. The symptoms can be distressing and affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, work, and social activities. Moreover, the unpredictability of when an episode may occur can lead to anxiety and fear, causing a negative impact on a person’s mental health.

The psychological effects of dizziness and vertigo can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, depression, social isolation, and impaired quality of life.


The treatment for dizziness or vertigo depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor may recommend medication to treat inner ear problems or BPPV. In some cases, physical therapy may be helpful to treat balance problems. For vertigo caused by Meniere’s disease, your doctor may recommend a low-salt diet, diuretics, or medication to reduce fluid buildup in the inner ear. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct inner ear problems or other conditions that cause vertigo.

Addressing the psychological impact of dizziness and vertigo is also essential. Treatment may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps individuals change negative thought patterns related to their symptoms.

It pays to be informed

Dizziness and vertigo are two different conditions that have different causes and treatments. It is essential to differentiate between the two and seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe symptoms. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with dizziness or vertigo can find relief and improve their quality of life.

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