difference between dizziness and vertigo

How to Tell Vertigo from Dizziness

Vertigo and dizziness are mentioned or interchanged with each other quite often. This isn’t surprising since people who deal with these conditions feel like they’re losing control of their surroundings.

If you’re someone who deals with discomfort triggered by vertigo or dizziness knowing why they occur can be helpful. Learn about the difference between vertigo and dizziness, and how you can address them effectively.

Learn the Difference: Dizziness and Vertigo

One major difference between these health problems would be the sensation that you feel when you experience them. If you’re feeling dizzy, you feel off-balanced, faint, or weak. Scientifically, there is an “altered sense of spatial orientation,” wherein you feel that your surroundings are arranged differently.

However, if you have vertigo, it’s as if your surroundings are suddenly spinning, whirling, or tipping to one side. Your body thinks the world is “moving” when there’s no movement at all.

The differences between dizziness and vertigo extend to their causes too. Wonder why you’re feeling dizzy? It may be due to these factors:

  • Environmental factors
  • Dehydration or overheating
  • Health conditions like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), hypotension (low blood pressure levels), iron deficiency anemia
  • Cardiovascular conditions like cardiomyopathy, heart attack, heart arrhythmia, or transient ischemic attack
  • Decreased blood flow that causes insufficient amounts of blood to reach your brain or inner ear
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Motion sickness
  • Head injuries
  • Medications like antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and blood pressure medicine
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

On the other hand, people struggle with vertigo because of problems related to the vestibular system, found in the inner ear. Increased awareness about your body’s movement, positioning, and spatial awareness is possible because of your vestibular system. Aside from this health issue, you may experience vertigo because of:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV (characterized by an intense and short yet false spinning sensation)
  • Meniere’s disease (uncontrolled fluid build-up in the inner ear)
  • Vestibular neuritis (infection of your vestibular nerve)
  • Labyrinthitis (infection of your vestibular and cochlear nerves)
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Cerebellar stroke
  • Head injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Tumors targeting your central nervous system or your inner ear
  • Antibiotics, pain and/or blood pressure medicines, anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants, and/or medications that address cancer

How Can You Address Dizziness and Vertigo?

Despite their differences, you can address and prevent dizziness and/or vertigo by following these tips:

  • Drink enough water or fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Eat meals regularly.
  • Manage stress levels to prevent anxiety.
  • Get enough hours of sleep.
  • Avoid increased consumption of substances with caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine that can worsen your condition.
  • Carry a walking stick or install railing or grab bars in your home if you struggle with movement.
  • Refrain from quickly moving your head, bending down to grab items, swiftly standing up or sitting down after being idle in a position for too long, or extending your neck.
  • Avoid lying down on your back to prevent vertigo and move slowly to lower your fall risk.
  • Ask your doctor if it’s possible to lower doses of dizziness- or vertigo-causing medicines, or change them altogether

If you still deal with dizziness and/or vertigo frequently, consult a doctor or a health specialist immediately. Recurring instances may already signal that something is wrong with your body. A doctor or a health professional may help pinpoint what causes these and suggest solutions on how to address them effectively.